Communication key to outdoor safety

Posted: Tuesday, November 01, 2005


  Just as pilots file a flight plan, so, too, should outdoor enthusiasts. Clarion file photo

Just as pilots file a flight plan, so, too, should outdoor enthusiasts.

Clarion file photo

Remember back in high school when your parents always wanted to know where you were going, and when you would be home, and who you would be with?

Well, guess what? It's still a good idea, at least when you're heading out into the wilderness, to let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back.

"It lets us know where to start looking for you," said Josh Rhoten, a firefighter-paramedic with Central Emergency Services.

CES frequently assists Alaska State Troopers with searches when someone goes missing in the great outdoors, and Rhoten said a detailed trip plan is invaluable to searchers.

A good wilderness trip plan should include basic personal information name, address, date of birth and phone number as well as the itinerary you plan to follow, including the route you're planning both to and from your destination. Your mode of transportation car, snowmachine, airplane, skis, etc. also should be included.

Rhoten said a description of the vehicle that's getting you there is helpful, too.

"Vehicle information is important so we can confirm that tour vehicle is the one at the trail head," he said.

Rhoten said a description of the gear you have with you can make a difference in the event of a search, right down to the details of your clothing and tent.

"That's helpful, especially if we're doing an air search," Rhoten said.

Medical information tells searchers what they might be dealing with. A person to contact about the area in which you're planning to be also is helpful.

Rhoten said leaving your trip plan with someone reliable is vital.

"That's one of the most important things. You've got to leave it with someone you trust, in this case, with your life," he said.

It's just as important to check in when you get home to avoid a false alarm. Should you not return when expected, your contact person should call the troopers to let them know you're overdue.

Rhoten said it's just as important to leave a plan for a day trip as it is for a week-long excursion.

"Day hikes are where you get into a lot of trouble. You're expecting a nice, easy hike, something changes, and you're not prepared. You can get into just as much trouble 1 mile from the road as you can 10 miles from the road," he said. "Just a brief plan what you're doing, when to expect you back and where you're going gives people a place to start."

There are several items considered essential for wilderness travel: a map and compass and the know-how to use them; food and clothing, to keep warm and dry; matches and other means to start a fire, making sure they're dry and protected from the weather, and tinder; and a way to make a shelter, from a garbage bag to a tent.

A flashlight, first-aid kit, pocket knife or multitool, sunglasses, water and a way to purify it also make most lists of essential items.

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