5 Top Tips to get yourself out of trouble in the outdoors
Posted on Aug 01, 2013 by Simon Coker
This is Part 2 of a 2 part blog about your safety in the outdoors. You can check out Part 1 Stay Safe in the Outdoors here. In the first article Wilderness Scotland guide and Mountain Rescue Team member Simon Coker looked at some preparations for heading into the wilderness and now here are his 5 Top Tips to get yourself out of trouble in the outdoors.
Part 2: Get yourself out of trouble in the outdoors
Even the best prepared adventurers will find themselves in a sticky situation every now and again, whether it’s due to circumstances outside their control or just letting their guard down. Here are 5 Top Tips to get yourself out of trouble in the outdoors once something has gone a bit wrong.
The overriding theme here is to maintain clear thinking and, as mentioned in the previous article, prevent minor mishaps escalating into full blown incidents through decisive action. Should you find yourself with your plan starting to fall apart and events spiralling out of control, these top tips will help to manage the situation:
1) Hit the Pause button
It may seem the least obvious thing to do when you find yourself benighted on the top of a hill or attending to a fallen bikers broken arm miles from anywhere but the time taken to pause and check the basics is well worth it. This means, at an appropriate opportunity, taking 5 minutes to detach yourself from events and ensure the basic human needs are being met i.e. everyone is warm (where a group shelter is an invaluable piece of kit), fed and watered. Do this and you’ll think clearly rather than blundering on into further mistakes.
- Pack a group shelter
2) Get Some Perspective
Once your basic physiological needs are taken care of, make time to take stock of the situation you find yourself in and discuss (either with companions or yourself!) the options open to you. What these will completely depend on the situation but those that are simple and most directly get you back to a point where you can regroup and take control of the situation are the most desirable. The other stuff, such as getting back to the car, can be sorted out from there. Having assessed the options, make a plan, agree on it and put it into action. Including timings in your plan helps keep track of progress as an incident progresses and it may be helpful to write these down.
- Pack a pen and small notebook
3) Get Assistance Early
If the situation genuinely demands it, no rescue service resents being called on – that is what they are there for. They will also be happy to be made aware of potential situations developing that may need their assistance if the party are not able to extract themselves from their predicament. It is far simpler from a Search and Rescue (SAR) perspective to go in with a small team to a known location and nature of incident than launch a major search when a group does not return. When you make contact with the emergency services prepare the information you need to pass on beforehand. This should include as much detail as feasible in terms of persons involved, nature of any injuries, location and equipment you have. This is where having registered your phone with the 112 emergency text service may come in very handy.
- Pack your mobile phone and register with 112 emergency text service
4) Keep Warm
The energy draining power of the elements should not be underestimated. This particularly applies to the wind which saps the warmth out of you at an alarming rate once you are wet and/or your activity level is reduced. So if you’re slowly walking wounded out of the wilderness or waiting for assistance, make sure you and your companions are warm either by adding clothing or seeking shelter; whether it’s behind a boulder or in your trusty orange bivvy bag – get out of the wind. If in the hills the weather often improves dramatically as you descend – which will also help with the final point as it often gets you out of the clouds.
- Pack extra clothing, shelter or bivvy bag
5) Be Visible
A torch is an essential piece of emergency kit year round. Even during daylight it makes you hugely more visible. If you are on the ground, a massively noisy yellow helicopter with flashing lights on it is pretty easy to spot but if you watch any of the TV programmes featuring SAR aircraft you get an idea of how tricky it is to spot people on the ground even when they know where they’re looking. A flashing torch will make you stand out like a sore thumb on that heathery/rocky hillside. A good emergency whistle will alert anyone else in the vicinity that doesn’t have the advantage of elevation that aircraft have to your position. It’s 6 blasts on the whistle and/or 6 flashes of the torch at 1 minute intervals and maintain this until you are talking to your rescuers.
- Pack a torch and emergency whistle
Hopefully all this gloomy talk hasn’t put you off venturing out into the wilds too much but just remember that if that if you do find yourself with your back against the wall the aim is to control the controllables and manage the rest in order to get yourself safely home.
- Tip 6 – There’s plenty of time for apportioning blame once you’re home and dry – no need to get into who’s fault this is until then!
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