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What to do in a Wilderness Emergency

How to handle a backpacking emergency situation.


While most backpacking trips will be safe and fun, it is important to be prepared for an emergency. The best way to stay safe in the wilderness is to avoid emergency situations entirely. Be smart and aware of your surroundings and dangerous situations.

Before you head out, it is always best to check your first-aid kit to make sure it is ready for basic emergencies. Charge your cellular phone and be aware of the area's resources. And if you are an avid backpacker, consider taking a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course.

When backpacking, always be prepared for unexpected weather changes and carry plenty of food, water and a simple first aide kit. Emergency situations can range from a bad turn in weather, to a lost or injured hiker. In the wilderness, emergency situations are real and the consequences can be great. Unfortunately accidents do happen and mostly when they are least expected. Here are a few basic tips on how to handle a wilderness emergency.

Stay Calm

In an emergency situation, always stay calm – don’t panic. Your ability to remain calm and assess the situation is crucial to developing an emergency plan. Think rationally. A minor emergency situation can take a turn for the worst if the group panics, or a serious emergency can become fatal. A group needs to remain calm and quickly work together to think of a logical plan.

Determine an Action Plan

What are your options? Depending on your emergency situation, talk with your group about the best and safest scenarios. Remember to stay calm while developing a strategic plan. Do not leave the injured person alone if at all possible. Utilize any and all resources that are available.

Seek Help

Depending on the emergency situation, determine if your group will need additional help. Before any trip, know your options for emergency help. Ask other hikers for assistance if necessary or call for help. make sure to always carry an emergency radio device, satellite phone or cellular phone. If you have phone service dial 911. If there is no phone service in your area, walk around to see if you can find a signal.

Stay Warm and Hydrated

Look for shelter. An emergency situation can and will be more comfortable if everyone remains warm, dry and protected from the weather. Build a fire if necessary and be sure to drink plenty of water. While, your body can naturally survive for days without water, it is the most important priority. Be sure to not drink water from a contaminated source.

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