As soon as you think you may be lost, call Search and Rescue immediately.
By Blake Miller
I enjoy and frequently check-out Michael Coyle’s excellent blog that is focused on Search and Rescue (SAR) missions and issues.
In a May post he discusses the need to call for backcountry rescue immediately. In his post Coyle commented:
“….However, I’d like to stress that this rescue went so well because the guys called for help early in the process. Of course it was not so early that we could get them out of there before night fell, but it was early enough that we could spot them from the air, and drop equipment to them…”
That caused me to pause and reflect on my own SAR experience. During the fall and winter months, back country travelers need to request assistance as soon as possible. Most SAR members are volunteers. Once the call goes out for a search or rescue, it takes time to assemble the teams necessary to accomplish the mission.
The mission planners will identify specific skill sets and the special teams that will be called upon. It may take an hour or more for the volunteers to arrive, gather gear and get briefed. Travel from the SAR base to the last known position takes time, too. Helicopter support is not always feasible. Waiting until late in the day generally pushes the response into darkness. Darkness is not a searchers friend.
Delaying the call delays the response. I recommend that once the hiker determines that they are lost, immediately call 911 or activate a beacon (e.g., SPOT, inReach, etc.). Give SAR the time to do the job right. If the hiker has cell phone connectivity call the county’s emergency dispatcher first. Only after that call has been made should one even think about calling family or friends.
Battery charge is critical. The lost subject can expect multiple calls from the emergency dispatcher and maintaining the phones charge is vital.Blake Miller
Blake Miller has made a career out of staying found and knowing where he is at all times. His formal navigation training began when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973. He served as an officer aboard several Navy ships over his twenty-year career; many of those tours included the duty of Navigator. Blake began working with satellite navigation systems at sea in 1976, culminating with the then-new Global Positioning Systems aboard the Battleship WISCONSIN in early 1990.
In 1998 Blake started Outdoor Quest, a business dedicated to backcountry navigation and wilderness survival. Blake has taught classes to wild land firefighters, state agency staffs, Search and Rescue team members, hunters, hikers, skiers, fishermen and equestrians. He regularly teaches classes through the Community Education programs at Central Oregon (Bend) and Chemeketa (Salem, OR) Community Colleges.
As a volunteer, Blake teaches navigation and survival classes, to students in the local school district and conservation groups. He is a member of a Search and Rescue team.
Contact Information :
Phone: 541 280 0573;