Survival Safety Tips

Every year, more and more Americans load up their gear and head for the mountains. Those venturing into rugged mountains may travel miles and find few signs of humans. Above timberline, there is a whole new world of challenges even for the most experienced.

Certain safety procedures should be followed by all visitors. The failure to observe safety rules can lead to accidents and sometimes death. The chances of becoming a statistic of search and rescue teams will be greatly reduced by following these safety rules.

Don’t Go Out Alone
Unless you are experienced and prefer solitude, a party of at least four people is recommended. If a person is injured, once can remain with the victim, while the others go for help. Try never to leave an injured person along. He or she may wander off while in shock.

Plan a route ahead of time using Geological Survey or Forest Service maps. When traveling on foot, allow about 1 hour for each 2 miles covered, plus an additional hour for each 1,000 feet of altitude gained. At all times, know where you are on the map and the best way out to civilization.

Get a Weather Report
Fast-moving frontal systems can bring sudden and violent changes in mountain weather, during both summer and winter. It is recommended that you obtain an extended forecast before setting out.

Check with Authorities
Much of the mountain country lies within National Forests. Forest Rangers know their districts and can offer valuable advice on trails, campsites, and potential problems.

Carry the Proper Equipment
As a rule, the most serious dangers are extreme heat, wind, cold, and wetness. Even during July it sometimes snows in the high country, and hard summer rains occur almost daily throughout the mountain ranges. It is quite possible to die from exposure (technically hypothermia) at any time of the year. Having proper clothing is very important. A shirt, sweater, socks, mittens, and cap (all of wool) should always be carried. Even when wet, wool is warm against the skin. For protection against wind and wetness, carry a weatherproof outer parka. Sun protection and adequate water are essential in desert areas.

Bright clothing is appropriate from a safety standpoint during the big game hunts.

Firewood is scarce almost everywhere. Use a fuel-powered stove to conserver wood. Water sources are almost always polluted. Be able to purify water you need. Water is scarce on the ridges. Carry plenty.

Always carry these items when going into the mountains:

  • Maps
  • Compass (and GPS)
  • Flashlight
  • Sunglasses
  • Waterproof Matches
  • Whistle
  • Pocket Knife
  • Candle
  • Protective Clothing
  • Minimum First Aid
  • Extra Food

Persons coming into the mountains from low altitudes should beware of trying to climb high peaks until they have had a few days to acclimatize. Many people who go too high too fast suffer “mountain sickness”. The symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and the feeling of being very ill. Pulmonary edema, a major medical emergency, also can occur above the 9,000 foot level. The symptoms include extreme fatigue or collapse, shortness of breath, a racking cough, bubbling noises in the chest, and bloody sputum. Unless transportation to a much lower altitude immediately, the victim may die within a matter of hours. If available, administer oxygen.

There are several other procedures which, if followed, may also help prevent the “mountain miseries”.

  • Arrive in good physical condition.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.

Returning to sea level at the end of a high mountain expedition presents no adjustment problems.

Leave Itinerary with Family or Friends
A complete itinerary of your trip, along with the name and address of each member, description and license numbers of vehicles used, and expected time of return should be left with a reliable person. Once under way, stick to your planned route and schedule. Anytime a group is seriously overdue, the State Police, County Sheriff, or Forest Service should be called.

Know Each Members Limitations
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the party. Do not try anything beyond the ability of the weakest person. Set the pace to that of the slowest person. Never be too proud to turn back in the face of overwhelming odds. Use judgment and return another day.

Keep Group Together
Individual members of a group should not be allowed to fall behind the main party or go ahead of it. Many fatalities have resulted from disregarding this rule. If the group is large, select one person to set the pace, another to bring up the rear. If hiking in the dar for some reason, assign each person a number and count-off periodically.

Use Caution Crossing Rivers
Most mountain streams are shallow and present few fording problems. However, when crossing any stream where there is the slightest change of being carried away, always release the waist strap and one shoulder strap of your pack, so that it can be jettisoned if necessary. Flash floods occur in the steep, arid canyons and arroyos around the perimeter of the mountains. Avoid camping in these hazardous areas or leaving vehicles parked there.

Watch Out for Loose Rock
In some areas loose rock can be a serious hazard. Keep your group bunched together when going up or down this type of terrain. Never roll rocks down a mountainside. Another party may be below.

Get Off Ridges During Storms
Summer storms move fast and may be accompanied by rain, high winds, low visibility, and lightning. Do not get caught on a peak or exposed ridge. If you are unable to get down in a lightning storm, stay away from lone trees or rocks. Avoid shallow caves or depressions. Ground currents may jump up from the edge of your body. Insulate yourself from the ground if possible (pack, rope, clothing) and squat down, allowing only your two feet to touch the ground. Do not abandon metal equipment. It may be needed later on.

Know Your Emergency Signals
Some signals are considered standard by most search and rescue groups.

  • Distress – 3 evenly spaced signals given within 30 seconds. Repeat as required.
  • Acknowledgment – 2 signals given in quick succession.
  • Return to Camp – 4 evenly spaced signals given within 30 seconds. Repeat as required.

Forerunner 305 Heart Rate Monitor/ GPS

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