Staying put when lost

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Lurch
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Re: Staying put when lost

Post by Lurch » August 19th, 2016, 8:30 am

Having a basic idea of how a SAR mission typically goes down could potentially help make those decisions. By far the generic answer will always be DONT MOVE ANYMORE, but there are always exceptions to generic answers... Some questions to ask yourself.
  • Do you think you know where you are?
  • Do you know how to get out
  • Where was the last place that you did know where you were
    • Can you get back there?
    • Are you 100% SURE you can get back there?
  • Are there safety concerns with your present location
  • Are you visible and identifiable at your present location
  • Are you on trail or some sort of linear feature, or are you cross country in the middle of nothing?
  • Do you have gear appropriate for the current conditions, including an overnight stay? (that doesn't mean a comfortable stay, that means would you survive)
  • Do you have some method to signal searchers
  • Are there safety concerns with your intended route
  • Did you or your party make a call for help
  • Are you overdue enough that your friends/family would have called for help (and do they know where you were going)
  • Is anyone going to call for help
I completely understand the boredom/restlessness of sitting still, but that's something that just needs to happen. To put searchers at more risk because you were bored and decided to keep moving is just ridiculous. I've had 4 mile 'grab and go' kind of searches turn into overnight 20+ mile searches because the subjects got bored and left the known location they called in at.

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BigBear
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Re: Staying put when lost

Post by BigBear » August 28th, 2016, 6:00 pm

I think the most important part of "stay put" in Lurch's comments is "once you've called for help." If you've made the 911 call, you need to stay put. You have already surrendered your will to your rescuers.

The questions a perons asks once they get "lost" (before the 911 call) are important in determining how lost you are. If you have simply made a wrong turn and can get back to a known point (e.g. the trail or a road), then you are not truly lost. Lost comes from a series of bad decisions that results in one's inability to determine any reasonable course of action that will get them back to the trailhead. The key to hiking is not to get yourself into such a predicament. Know when you have made a wrong turn, and get back to the correct location, then proceed in the correct direction.

I have taken a bad turn several times in my 30 year history on the trail. I have never had to call 911 because I was able to identify my oops and get back to the known point on the map because I didn't make the situation worse by going cross-country or ignoring the mis-step and continuing onward hoping it might work itself out.

You will make mis-steps on the trail if you stretch your skills. It's like "falling down is skiing." It's okay to fall down, but it's not okay to fall over a cliff. Planning the route and working the plan is how you get better.

Lurch
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Re: Staying put when lost

Post by Lurch » August 28th, 2016, 7:26 pm

The best rule is as soon as you make the realization you're "misplaced" you need to STOP

Sit down! - This will keep you from moving more, and getting more lost. Sit down, take a drink of water, let the adrenaline dump from the realization that something went wrong wear off a bit so you can actually focus clearly.

Think - Go back through your plan, and what you've done so far, try and figure out where your error point was, what landmark did you pass that you weren't expecting, or what were you expecting that you haven't hit. When was the last time you know you were on course, etc. Figuring out how long you've been misguided can dramatically affect the potential amount of error.

Observe - Take stock of your current situation, location, terrain, equipment, weather, health, etc. Do you have gear to easily survive the night, or is a little more work/creativity going to have to happen? Does the terrain match what you're expecting? Can you triangulate your position? What direction is you trail taking you, what direction is the slope facing, are there visible and identifiable land marks you can take bearings off of, etc.

Plan - Make your decision for the best course of action. I would highly recommend staying put in the dark. If you're not trained and comfortable with night wilderness travel things can go severely wrong very quickly. SAR deploys in the dark, we rely on the dark in many ways because it tends to inhibit the travel of our subjects, and gives us time to catch up before they become a moving target again. Moving targets have a tendency to find weird routes that break containment, or get into previously searched areas, which forces us to re-search the same assignments multiple times before we can rule them out.

How long can you stay put? Not how long will you be comfortable, or how long before you get bored, how long can you survive in that location. Impatience, and the exposure to the elements that comes along with people pushing themselves to "self rescue" has probably taken more lives than anything else. If it works, great, no one hears about those stories. If it doesn't, the statistics shift a wee bit to move some points in the "rescue" column over into the "recovery" column...

Webfoot
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Re: Staying put when lost

Post by Webfoot » August 29th, 2016, 8:14 am

Lurch, would you help me to apply your advice? I like to explore remote roads and what they lead to which means I cannot always leave a record of where I am going, other than general areas like "east of Mt Hood." I suppose staying put only works if someone knows to look for you in a relatively small area? At what point does an area become too large for a search?

I believe you have written previously that a major problem is people waiting too long to call for rescue. I carry a ResQLink+ emergency locator beacon; if I were to trigger this device I suppose I would stay put. I would probably wait too long to push that button because I am afraid of what it would cost however. What will it cost to push that button, and how can I plan to intelligently make the choice to use it, before the emotion of a future stressful situation overwhelms logic?

Lurch
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Re: Staying put when lost

Post by Lurch » August 30th, 2016, 7:24 am

Webfoot wrote:Lurch, would you help me to apply your advice? I like to explore remote roads and what they lead to which means I cannot always leave a record of where I am going, other than general areas like "east of Mt Hood." I suppose staying put only works if someone knows to look for you in a relatively small area? At what point does an area become too large for a search?

I believe you have written previously that a major problem is people waiting too long to call for rescue. I carry a ResQLink+ emergency locator beacon; if I were to trigger this device I suppose I would stay put. I would probably wait too long to push that button because I am afraid of what it would cost however. What will it cost to push that button, and how can I plan to intelligently make the choice to use it, before the emotion of a future stressful situation overwhelms logic?
Oi, it's difficult to give clear cut advice in most cases, because the answer is almost always "it depends".

Without a doubt, we need a search area to begin searching. At best, not having a clear understanding of where someone is will grossly delay a response (possibly by days) at worst we'll never be able to launch a formal ground search. There are two immediate elements to a search. The LKP, and/or the PLS. The Last Known Position can be defined by physical evidence. Your car at a trailhead is a common/good LKP. By all reasonable assumptions you drove that car there, so you were there at some point. Point Last Seen requires an actual eye witness/camera to identify that it was actually you at that specific location.

If we don't have one of those, or they're at your front door when you drove away, there's nowhere to put ground searchers. If your family knows "east side of hood" than the most likely immediate response is going to be a deputy, or misc people driving and checking every possible trailhead to look for your car, and thus define an LKP and let a ground mission start. Needless to say, that can take time, and isn't always successful.

We don't get a whole lot of PLB or EPIRB activations around here. I know that WE don't charge for rescues, and I don't believe there should be any other federal type charges if it's a genuine rescue need. Overseas, or literally in the ocean that may change because of the insane cost of running helos. Don't fear the cost of a rescue, especially if you have an injury. We aren't *fast* by any means, so have patience, but we'll be there.

What you just said, is one of the primary reasons that we don't charge for rescues, and I have yet to see any legitimate SAR team, paid or volunteer strongly push for that. The only people within the region I know of who have is Ski Patrol for negligent out of bounds rescues, but even that is rare enough I couldn't cite a specific event. That delay in asking for help not only puts you at risk, but it puts our teams at a higher risk as well. We go where the average hikers get lost or injured going. I'd much prefer all our searches be short and sweet happy endings.

As a side note... If you believe at all that there is, or may possibly be a search going on for you, and you self rescue and are on your happy way home. Please take the time to pull over when you're in cell service and inform people. The county sheriff non-emergency number would be just fine. It happens more often than youd think that we're in the wilderness, searching for someone who's not out there. :roll:

Webfoot
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Re: Staying put when lost

Post by Webfoot » September 1st, 2016, 7:33 am

Thank you for a full reply! I understand that "it depends" but it certainly helps me to get a better picture of how things should work.

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