Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.See all posts »
How to Avoid Needing Search and Rescue
Dr. Billin recommends that anyone heading out to the backcountry should carry with them the following items (“The Ten Essentials’).
The Ten Essentials
- topographic map and compass
- extra clothing
- extra food and water
- waterproof matches
- fire starter/candle
- pocket knife
- first aid kit
- “space” blanket or two large trash bags
How to Avoid Needing SAR
- Plan your trip and let others know your plans.
- Know your physical limitations.
- Test your equipment under controlled conditions.
- Protect against Giardia (and other causes of infectious diarrhea).
- Keep the team together at all times.
- Be aware of the weather.
Avoid the potential hazards of nature. These include lightning, cold weather (hypothermia and frostbite), dehydration (situations of heat, cold, high altitude, strenuous exertion), snow- and sun-blindness, high altitude-related illness, and heat-related illness.
If You Become Lost
- Unless you know exactly what you are doing and where you are going, stay put.
- Try to make noise
- Determine your orientation.
- Find a shelter.
- If you are on the move, leave clues for rescuers.
- If it will become cold, build a fire.
If You're With Someone Who Becomes Lost
- Holler or whistle and listen for a response.
- Conduct a brief limited search in groups of two persons.
- Mark the location where the person was last seen on a map and on the ground.
- Return to the road or trailhead, marking your path to assist rescuers in finding the “point last seen.”
- Call 911.
- Remain at the trailhead in case the lost person follows you out, and to assist the search and rescue team.
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