Rescuing hikers: A collaborative effort for N.S. emergency officials
When hikers run into unexpected trouble or become lost in the woods, multiple emergency units in Nova Scotia respond including RCMP, Ground Search and Rescue and Emergency Health Services.
Each unit works together to locale and assist the missing hiker(s).
“We work together as partners and we are a team when we are responding to a situation like this,” said Dal Hutchinson with the RCMP.
The RCMP are typically the first ones to respond to a report of missing hiker. They assess the situation and notify other agencies if necessary to play their role.
“We are specifically trained for navigation and incident mitigation in the woods,” said Paul Service with Halifax Search and Rescue
“It’s a matter of getting us to the patient or getting the patient to us, that’s basically our role,” said Michael Janczyszyn, a paramedic with Emergency Health Services.
Every year emergency responders say they are called to assist with lost or distressed hikers on trails in Nova Scotia
To avoid such a fate they recommend a number of tips before heading out on that hike:
- Plan ahead. Make a list of things that you may need, including: rain gear, extra warm clothing, high energy food, water, first aid kit, pocket knife, matches in a waterproof container, sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended.
- Watch the weather. It can change frequently so it’s important to know what to expect and dress accordingly.
- Don’t go alone. Consider going with a friend or a group of people. It’s safer and more fun.
- Tell people where you’re going and when you plan to be back. This can help first responders to locate you in the event of an emergency.
- Bring your fully charged smartphone. This will allow you to call someone if you become lost. Smartphones have become an important tool for first responders to help locate lost hikers.
- If you do get lost, stay calm and keep warm. If you have to stay overnight, build a campfire for warmth, light, and safety. This can also assist as the smoke of a campfire can be spotted by an aircraft.
“Know what your medical history medical conditions are before you go in, be prepared stay hydrated,” Janczyszyn said.
The benefit and disadvantage of technology
Although new technology like drones and GPS apps have aided police and Halifax Search & Rescue in locating missing hikers, they also warn hikers not to rely on it.
“We are actually seeing an evolution from lost into rescue and a lot of what’s going on is that people are becoming too reliant on technology now,” Service said. “So they are looking at their cell phone in downtown Halifax which may last 12 to 18 hours or [a] day even. In the wilderness you’re going into areas where you’re not having cell coverage all the time.”
Instead they recommend bring a map and/or a compass to avoid getting lost.
“The final result is to find an individual who is lost or missing and get them out safely,” Hutchinson said.
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