Summer can be busy for SAR team

Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue caution anyone heading out into the back country to be prepared

The warm weather is the perfect invitation to head out into the back country for a hike or swim.

But Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue team manager Rick Laing cautions anyone heading out to make sure you plan ahead before hitting the trails.

Laing said summertime tends to be a busy season for the local search and rescue team, and with its 21 active members also enjoying the summer weather, resources can be stretched thin.

“For us, summer has been fairly busy, as we’ve been called out a number of times, including lending a hand in Coquitlam,” he said.

Sharing resources is common practice between search and rescue teams, noted Laing, saying volunteers don’t worry about borders when they’re called to help.

His team was just put through some extra swift water training and advanced first aid, and he hopes to recruit new members come fall.

Until then, the team is faced with trying to make sure the public does its best when heading out so search calls don’t come in.

With increased activity in the summer, Laing said its a good idea to prepare a small backpack if you plan to head out, especially if you are going alone.

“The most important thing you can do if you’re heading out alone is to tell someone where you’re going and what time you plan to come back,” he said.

Laing said MRSR have been called out a number of times looking for someone who is thought to be missing, but really it was a simple lack of communication.

Laing also stressed that while GPS technology can be great on the highway or for finding an address, it’s not ideal when heading out into the back country.

“Batteries fail and people move out of cell phone range. It’s a good idea to pack a map and a compass,” he said.

He also stressed that while having those tools is vital, knowing how to read them is just as important.

With the long summer nights, Laing also stressed people should bring extra clothes and lots of water.

“If you get stranded somewhere and all you’re wearing is shorts, a T-shirt and sandals, it can get pretty cold overnight.”

More than anything, Laing said it’s vital to not panic and stay in the open so you can be found should you get lost.

“Being prepared is the best advice I can give.”

Be prepared

Tips on heading out:

• Be prepared for your chosen recreation – Being fit enough to go the distance takes physical preparation. Stick to your turnaround time. Take the proper equipment, have a trip plan and use reference and guide books.

• Complete a trip plan and leave it with a friend – The trip plan explains your destination, the route you are taking, who is in the group and your return time. If you do not return as planned, the friend you left the trip plan with can give the form to the police to initiate a search.

• Never hike alone – Hike with a group and keep together. Travel at the speed of the slowest person. If a person becomes separated by going ahead or falling behind, they are more likely to become lost.

• Do not panic – Maintain a positive mental attitude if you become lost. Being lost is not dangerous if you are prepared.

• Stay where you are – People who carry on after they become lost usually get further from the trail and further from people who are looking for them. Also, going downhill often leads to natural drainage

• Use signaling devices – Blowing a whistle, lighting a fire and staying visible will help searchers find you. Help searchers find you even if you are embarrassed or afraid. Remember that animals will not be attracted to your signals. Searchers may also use planes or helicopters, so make yourself visible to them.

• Build or seek shelter – Protect yourself from the rain, wind and excessive sun. Be as comfortable as possible. But when it is daylight, make sure you are visible to searchers in helicopters or planes.

• The most common mistake – An individual’s belief that “it could never happen to me” is summed up as EGO. By being prepared, you can enjoy your trip outdoors regardless of what nature throws at you.

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