When and how to alert authorities

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stevenrbi
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When and how to alert authorities

Post by stevenrbi » January 9th, 2016, 6:30 pm

When I go hiking, ether alone or with friends I always leave information with my wife as to where I’m going, what time I expect to be back and the make, model and license of the car. We were talking the other day about up and coming hikes and my wife commented that she really wasn’t sure what the right protocol is for alerting the authorities. If I’m late and not answering my cell phone does she call 911 or does she call the state police or the county police? I told her I thought 911 was the right answer but I’m not sure so I thought I ask and see what others would do (or have done) in that situation. Also, is there a recommended time to wait before alerting authorities to a missing hiker?
Steve

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BurnsideBob
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by BurnsideBob » January 9th, 2016, 7:05 pm

This topic has been discussed on the High Sierra Topic Board. A number of the HST members are involved in SAR and have developed a standardized itinerary/notification form for people to use.


The discussion is here (there are quite a few others you can find using the search function):
http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... rm#p103013

And the form is here:
http://reconn.org/form.html

The HST board even has a topic category called "Missing Persons Alerts / SAR" which is here:
http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... m.php?f=37
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texasbb
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by texasbb » January 9th, 2016, 8:07 pm

I'm sure there's some good info in all that, BBob, but it would take a while to read through it all. I too have always heard 911 is the right first action and that's the instruction I leave on my trip info sheet.

As for the question about a recommended time to wait, I make that decision myself and put it on my info sheet---I don't want my loved one(s) to have to make any decisions, just follow instructions. I give both an expected time out and a call-the-choppers time. The latter is based on my own trip-by-trip assessment. It may be as much as 24 hours past the expected time out in case I decide to stay longer or have to wait out a rainstorm or whatever. Or it may just be N hours past expectation based on my idea of what a worst-case non-emergency delay would be for the trip at hand.

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Koda
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by Koda » January 10th, 2016, 8:23 am

by the way, is it 911 your supposed to call or the county sheriff?

isnt it the sheriff that authorizes SAR to take action?
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retired jerry
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by retired jerry » January 10th, 2016, 8:56 am

I think if you call 911 they will quickly route you to the proper authority

For example, I was on the Timberline Trail and observed Dollar Lake fire early, called 911, they quickly transferred me to the authority for fighting fires there, who said they already knew about it

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texasbb
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by texasbb » January 10th, 2016, 12:28 pm

retired jerry wrote:I think if you call 911 they will quickly route you to the proper authority
That's my assumption, too. I do try leave the name & number of the relevant land manager's office (Forest Service, Park Service, whatever) just in case that's helpful to anyone, but I leave explicit instructions to call 911 first.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by BurnsideBob » January 10th, 2016, 1:05 pm

Koda wrote:by the way, is it 911 your supposed to call or the county sheriff?

isnt it the sheriff that authorizes SAR to take action?
I think Koda is correct. For example, when Ronald Ohm was reported missing in the Mt Jefferson Wilderness August 10, 2012 the Marion County Sheriff coordinated the search. The exception might be if the search is in a National Park, most NPs have their own SAR capability and contacts. The itinerary/search form I referenced asks for Sheriff/SAR contact number for the area where the SAR will occur.

Air National Guard Helicopter searching for Ronald Ohm, Aug 12, 2012
Image

911 may not be the best number to call when the person doing the calling is geographically distant from the search area. When we did the Teton Crest Trail we were, of course, in Wyoming, but our contact person was in Silverton, Oregon. I kinda doubt Marion County 911 has Grand Teton NP SAR on their speed dial.

Personally, I am bad, bad, bad about leaving even the most basic info about my hikes if going solo. I do better when several of us are going. I ask our contact person to report us overdue the morning after we plan to exit.

So, acknowledging that I am very poor at doing the right thing, I referenced the nearly exact same discussion topic--when to pull the overdue party trigger--on another board. I hope folks do take the time to read the responses, as they varied significantly--from 'report me missing the first minute after this exact time' to two days after the planned exit date and time.
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Koda
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by Koda » January 10th, 2016, 1:56 pm

as far as the how I think the county sheriff is the one to call. When I've hired basecamp outfitters for ski mountaineering trips the outfitters always gave us the county sheriff number to put in our phones (and pointed out where we had cell reception). Day to day its not practical to program any given county numbers in your phones so 911 is second best but your just one more step away from SAR...

as for the when: the one time I gave my wife a hard fast time rule was the one time I had a non-emergency issue that caused me to be late. It stressed me out until I got a txt message in on the edge of the time rule in spotty cell coverage... I think something like midnight or after is more prudent but it might depend on the person and the adventure sometimes letting someone use their intuition is good too.
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stevenrbi
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Re: When and how to alert authorities

Post by stevenrbi » January 11th, 2016, 2:56 pm

Koda, I think you have it right. The county sheriff is the right place to call. I was reading a story last night from the PCT reader about a person who became ill while on the trail. He had satellite phone and contacted his wife and told her he was sick and where he thought he was in Lane county. He told her to call 911. When she called 911 the operator told her to call the Lane county sheriffs office. The problem was that he was not in Lane county so there was some confusion about who had jurisdiction. It ended up that they sent SAR units from both Lane County and Douglas county to find this guy. I guess the take-away from this is that you should leave information as to what county or counties you’ll be hiking in and the county sheriff’s phone number.
Steve

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