A recent search and rescue operation for two injured hikers in a remote area of Cape Breton highlights the need for the public to be more aware of the dangers involved in exploring the outdoors, according to the RCMP.
Hikers should plan properly before heading out, especially to remote areas, police say.
The rescue on May 21 began after police received a report of injured hikers on the Pollet’s Cove trail near Pleasant Bay, N.S.
Three ground search and rescue teams, RCMP officers, paramedics and other first responders, as well as a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter belonging to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax were involved in the search.
While the rescue was successful, the RCMP are advising the public to plan ahead, especially for trips to areas where there may be no cellular service. They say that in areas of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, hikers should be equipped with a satellite phone.
In a release following the rescue, the RCMP said the public should make a list of items needed for a hike. Hikers should also plan their routes and tell others where they are headed and when they expect to be back.
Sebastien Marcoux, a visitor safety officer with Parks Canada, said sharing travel plans with others may be the most important piece of advice.
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“It should include where you are going and how you are getting there, along with any key information that could help searchers,” Marcoux said in a recent interview. “Tell people when you are expected back and what they should do if they don’t hear from you.”
It’s unwise, he added, to leave the city and expect that cellphone service will be available.
“On the Parks Canada website and at trailheads, we will remind people that communication may be sketchy or non-existent for your cellphone that you rely on every day, and that you should be backing that up by taking a satellite phone,” he said.
Marcoux said Parks Canada has installed satellite phones in some locations across the country such as North Mountain on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia and along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.
He advised people to go to AdventureSmart.ca for advice on exploring the outdoors safely. Marcoux said the website stresses the three T’s — trip planning, training and taking the essentials.
Marcoux said everyone is encouraged to take something with which to make a shelter, even if they only plan to hike for a few hours.
They should also make sure they have food and water, some extra layers depending on the environment, a shelter and a communications device. He also recommends a whistle, flashlight or mirror, a compass and a map.
He said that while the AdventureSmart website and park officials can offer the best advice, everyone is responsible for their own safety.
“They are responsible to gauge from their past experience and their fitness level, how they feel that day and the equipment they have with them,” he said.