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BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Making sure that that you remain safe in the outdoors starts before you leave your house. By following the suggestions below you will help to reduce your chances of getting lost and increase the likelihood of a successful rescue in the event that things go wrong.
The tips below are only suggestions to help make your wilderness travel more enjoyable and safe. They do not replace proper training and experience in the outdoors. It is highly recommended that you know at least the basics of first aid, navigation and wilderness before you venture into the wilderness.
Remember, it can happen to you.
Remembering that getting lost or hurt can happen to you. A weather change, minor injury or even just forgetting to pay attention to the time can turn a short hike into an overnight epic. Realizing this and being prepared for it can make the difference between survival and death.
Choosing your activity
Ensure your activity and the terrain you are planning to cover match the skills and physical conditioning of your group. Use guidebooks to assist you with you planning.
If you are planning on traveling on snow, you should have a good knowledge of the dangers posed by avalanches and how to avoid them. If you do not have these skills you should avoid backcountry travel on snow.
Leave a trip plan
Before each trip write up a trip plane and leave it with a reliable person. A trip plan should have the following information:
– where you plan to leave your car or start your trip
– what type of activity you are planning
– the route you plan to take, along with any potential side trips.
– the names of people on the trip
– your planned return time.
– A time to call out the rescue team
Instruct the person you have left your trip plan with to call the police immediately if you have not returned as planned.
Check the forecast
Check the weather conditions; even if the weather predictions are not perfect, they can give you an indication of what conditions are like and how they might change.
Remember that heat can cause problems just as easily as cold. Dehydration and hypothermia can have serious consequences if not properly treated.
Prepare for variable weather conditions
Even if you have checked the weather before you leave, remember the weather forecasters have been know to get it wrong before. Weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains, temperatures can drop and winds can rob the body of warmth and moisture. Winter leaves the mountains much later than it does in the city. Snow and winter weather can last through the spring and well into summer. Make sure you take plan for the conditions.
Bring the 11 essentials.
There are many things you can bring on your hike or trip to make the trip go smoothly. Depending on the trip you are on you may want different amounts of gear, but the following 11 essential should be in your pack on each trip. Remember that knowing how to use them is as important as carrying them.
The 11 Essentials
1. Flashlight or Headlamp
Without a light, trails become very difficult to follow after dark. A headlamp can make the 3. difference between being able to follow the trail out and having to spend the night. Always carry spare batteries.
When you need a signaling device, blowing a whistle is far more effective and less tiring than shouting.
3. Waterproof matches or lighter and fire starter.
A fire can be used as a signaling device or for warmth. Please be responsible and only make fires when absolutely necessary. Remember that a fire can get out of control very easily and will then pose a danger to all those around including the person who started it.
4. Sun Protection
Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
A pocketknife can be used for everything from making lunch to building a shelter.
6. Large orange plastic bag
Use this to keep your clothes dry, as a signaling device or even as a makeshift shelter.
7. Water and food
Water and food are the fuel for life, especially if you are exercising hard.
8. Extra clothes
These clothes should be in addition to what you are wearing. Plan on it getting wetter, colder and windier. A toque, gloves and dry socks can make a cold stop much more pleasant.
9. First aid kit
A first aid kit can help with many injuries, but is far more effective if you not know how to use it. Taking a first aid course is highly recommended.
10. Compass and map
Make sure you have the right map a compass and the training to use them.
11. A Charged Cellular Phone
Cellular phones are now beginning to make a big difference in the way search and rescue operates. When within cellular service areas, having a fully charged cellular phone can make the difference between life and death.
Use clothing made from fabrics that stay warm when they are wet, do not use cotton. Always bring extra clothing so you can add layers if it you get cold. Remember that your house and car are shelters, once you leave them conditions will change and proper clothing is your main protection.
Remember to bring a hat on warm days and a toque and gloves on cold days.
Carry a cell phone
Although you should never rely on a cell phone, they do work some places in the mountains. If you do have service you can quickly notify searchers of your condition and if necessary guide them to you. If you are lost and require assistance dial 911.
If you do need to use your cell phone, use it sparingly. Remember that the phone is useless when the batteries are dead. To conserve batteries turn it off when you are not using it and if you get lost and do contact someone arrange to turn it on and make contact at agreed on time intervals.
GPS, Sat Phones and other electronic devices
Electronic navigation and communications equipment devices are very useful in many situations. However they should never be relied on. All of these devices rely on external signals and batteries; batteries go dead and signals might not be available. Devices like these should be only used to complement the 10 essentials, never to replace them.
*Remember to carry extra batteries.
WHILE YOU ARE OUT
Take care of yourself
Stay hydrated, make sure you eat and do not let yourself get too hot, cold or tired. Forgetting to take care of yourself will make your day far less enjoyable and can lead to far more severe consequences such as hypothermia. Use layering and wicking clothing to ensure you do not get cold and wet.
Stay on your planned route
If something happens to you and a search is called out, searchers will always start searching in the area you were planning on traveling through. By deviating from your plan it will take rescuers far longer to find you.
Stick to your turnaround time.
By setting and sticking to a reasonable turn around time you will ensure that you have sufficient time to make it back in daylight. Darkness makes it far easier to get lost or hurt and overstaying your return time can mean that search and rescue teams are called out to look for you.
Never hike alone
Hiking alone greatly increases the severity of any incident that may incapacitate you. Fatigue, a sprained ankle or other injury or medical incident can leave you stranded without access to help.
Stay together as a group
Travel as fast as the slowest member of the group and stay together. When a group breaks up or lets one person lag behind one or more member could get end up lost or on different trails. When looking for the missing members the rest of the group could also end up lost or stranded by darkness.
IF YOU GET LOST
Do not panic
If you realize you are lost or even slightly misplaced, do not panic. Maintain a positive mental attitude. Remaining calm and taking the time to properly think before you act will greatly increase your chances of a quick rescue. Being lost is not dangerous if you are prepared. Remember of the nearly 1000 people that search and rescue teams looked for in 2004, 95% were found within 24 hours.
Stay where you are
The first rule taught to anyone who is lost is, Staying Where You Are. If you are lost or not really sure where you are, you are just as likely to move away from the trail as you are to move towards it. A trail is a very small part of the forest and can be difficult to find. Searchers will look first where you were supposed to be, the closer you are to this area, the sooner you will be found.
Do not go downhill
Downhill travel can easily lead you into gullies and streambeds. These are usually cold and damp, can be filled with thick brush and fallen trees and can end in waterfalls and cliff bands. They are not the type of terrain you want to be traveling in.
Help Searchers find you
By using a whistle or your voice, building a fire and making yourself visible. you are far more likely to be found. Remember that animals will not be attracted by your signals. During the day stay in the open At night build or find shelter.
Build or seek shelter
Protect yourself from the elements and stay as dry as possible. Besides making things far more comfortable for yourself, you will greatly reduce your risk of hypothermia.
More info can be found at the BC Search and Rescue Association Website
Who is responsible for Search and Rescue in BC?
In BC search and rescue has been divided into three major categories.
Ground and Inland Waters
Air and Marine searches are the responsibility of the Armed forces and the Coast Guard, while ground and inland water searches outside of national parks are the responsibility of the RCMP. Search and rescue groups such as Lions Bay are called out by the RCMP to provide personnel and equipment for these types of searches.
Details on the RCMP policy for search and rescue are available on the RCMP website.
How is an search initiated?
Searches for missing persons are initiated by the police. Once a missing persons report is received, the police will make a decision whether or not to call out a search and rescue team. The call to the team is made to the team Duty Officer who then sends out a page to all team members. Team members call in to indicate their availability and then report to search headquarters.
If you are lost, who pays for your rescue?
In Canada, searches are conducted by volunteers and costs are covered by the Provincial Emergency Program.
Are SAR team members paid?
No member of Lions Bay Search and Rescue is paid, all team members are volunteers and take time off from work and their personal lives to respond to searches.
How is the team funded?
Money for the team is raised through donations by companies or individuals. The Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) will cover search expenses and lost equipment, but all equipment must be initially purchased by the team or individuals. To see our sponsors or make a donation to the team click here.
How many searches are there in BC each year?
In 2004 there were 933 searches involving 1,193 lost persons. 1,032 of these people were rescued alive. A detailed breakdown of incidents can be found on the PEP incident summaries website.
How many teams are there in BC?
There are approximately 4700 volunteers in BC, organized into 93 provincial and 7 IRT (Initial Response Teams) teams in BC. These teams are called onto support:
– Police searching for lost persons
– BC Ambulance service for assistance in transporting injured persons if specialized skills and equipment are needed.
– Coroners office for the recovery of the deceased if specialized skills and equipment are needed.
– Department of National Defense and Canadian Coast Guard in their mandate of air and marine search and rescue.
– Local governments during civil emergencies
These groups are coordinated and maintained by the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP).