In 2016 the National Park Service reported that 325 million people visited the parks in this country. That was a record they’re expecting 2017 to be an even bigger year. One of the most important things to remember when you go into a national park or any wilderness area for that matter is that it is not an amusement park. It’s one of those things where there’s a little bit of preparation and a little bit of knowledge that’s needed because it’s such an unforgiving environment. Now when we talk about search rescue operations 75% of those search and rescue operations in the National Park Service dealt with people who were day users only. That means they weren’t prepared to stay overnight it was just something they wanted to go do they want to go take a picture they wanted to get off of the trails just for a few minutes something like that and ended up needing help from outside agencies.
Talking about kids and teaching kids it’s super important to make sure they understand that it is an unforgiving environment and that they take it seriously. First thing is they need to have something with them some kind of a kit or some set of materials it doesn’t have to be in a pretty package format that says survival kit on it, something like a backpack or bag or even the pockets in the clothes that they’re wearing if they’ve got the materials that they need that’s what we’re talking about. If you go out there and they do happen to get away from an adult or supervised areas or get lost or whatever the case may be there couple of very important points that we should talk about with those kids. You need to teach your kids that if they do happen to get lost they need to stop moving they don’t want to become more lost it really does complicate the search and rescue solution as far as the responders are concerned.
Kids need to have emergency shelter that is easily accessible and easy to use tear it open put it on and sit down. Now with sitting down you don’t want to just sit on the ground a little foam sitting pad putting that in there folded up takes up almost no space doesn’t weigh anything at all, but can make a tremendous difference.
Having some kind of equipment with them to signal something like a whistle because that whistle blast is going to carry much longer distances and is much easier to hear then a voice that may be overcome by a running water sounds or by the wind or whatever the case may be.
Let the kids know that if they are lost it’s not gonna be something that they’re gonna get in trouble for. The searchers are there to help them mom and dad are not going to be upset with them for getting lost they’re gonna be very happy to see them and it will be a good thing as far as the search and rescue is concerned when it ends successfully. So if they hear their name being called if they hear someone coming a vehicle sound or something like that they need to start using a whistle that noise maker they blow it long and hard over and over and over again because that whistle blast is gonna carry much much further than a human voice will and you’ll be able to continue it for much much longer. Bottom line tell the kids to keep blowing that whistle until they can see the rescuers coming.
The national parks and any wilderness area in the country is a wonderful thing to go out and utilize. We’re not trying to scare people or make them think that it’s automatically gonna happen that there’s going to be some kind of negative outcome. In fact, most of these scenarios/situations where people need help they resolve from a search and rescue perspective 92%, in fact, resolve in less than 24 hours so really it’s just a matter of protecting yourself and taking a couple of extra steps to get all the things ready so that we have the peace of mind to know that if something unfortunate happens we have everything that we need ready and it’s not going to be a negative outcome.