Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

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.

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How to Avoid Needing Search and Rescue

Red Cross Emergency Kit
This post is a continuation of the search and rescue (SAR) advice offered by Dr. Aaron Billin in a lecture he presented at the 2010 Wilderness Medical Society annual meeting.

Dr. Billin recommends that anyone heading out to the backcountry should carry with them the following items (“The Ten Essentials’).

The Ten Essentials

  1. topographic map and compass
  2. flashlight/headlamp
  3. extra clothing
  4. sunglasses
  5. extra food and water
  6. waterproof matches
  7. fire starter/candle
  8. pocket knife
  9. first aid kit
  10. “space” blanket or two large trash bags

How to Avoid Needing SAR

  1. Plan your trip and let others know your plans.
  2. Know your physical limitations.
  3. Test your equipment under controlled conditions.
  4. Protect against Giardia (and other causes of infectious diarrhea).
  5. Keep the team together at all times.
  6. 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

  1. Unless you know exactly what you are doing and where you are going, stay put.
  2. Try to make noise
  3. Determine your orientation.
  4. Find a shelter.
  5. If you are on the move, leave clues for rescuers.
  6. If it will become cold, build a fire.

If You're With Someone Who Becomes Lost

  1. Holler or whistle and listen for a response.
  2. Conduct a brief limited search in groups of two persons.
  3. Mark the location where the person was last seen on a map and on the ground.
  4. Return to the road or trailhead, marking your path to assist rescuers in finding the “point last seen.”
  5. Call 911.
  6. Remain at the trailhead in case the lost person follows you out, and to assist the search and rescue team.
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Tags: Backpacking , Staying Safe

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.