Backcountry enthusiasts in the North Okanagan are cautioned to go prepared when heading off the beaten path.
Prompted by recent rescue incidents, the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP and Vernon Search and Rescue issued a reminder Saturday, Jan. 9, to anyone venturing into the backcountry to leave a plan at home with a family member or friend, among other steps to ensure backcountry safety.
As of Friday (Jan. 8), there have been four local incidents involving lost, stranded or injured people that required police or search and rescue assistance. VSAR was called to Hunters Range near Enderby on both Jan. 2 and 3 to assist snowmobilers.
Another callout was made on Jan. 5, when Central Okanagan Search and Rescue helped police locate a person in medical distress in the Fintry area of Westside Road — this while VSAR, who normally would respond to the Fintry area, was preoccupied with a search for a stranded snowmobiler in the Lumby area.
We are incredibly fortunate to have these professional, dedicated, highly skilled volunteers with the training and capabilities they do, in our communities, said Const. Chris Terleski, North Okanagan RCMP media relations officer.
If you need them, they will come, but those venturing into the backcountry are ultimately responsible for their own safety and by not taking any undue risks, and by being properly prepared, they can reduce the incidents of needing SAR.
Being properly prepared reduces the risks of backcountry travel, and means planning ahead. A sudden change in weather conditions or an unexpected event could turn a simple hike into a rescue situation.
The RCMP provided some tips for backcountry travel, which include leaving a plan at home, planning activities within your ability and seeking education about the terrain and training opportunities before heading out.
“Never go alone, stick together, and remember, those who go ahead or fall behind are more likely to get lost,” the Jan. 9 RCMP press release states.
Be sure to bring the essentials with you:
- Signalling device: whistle, flare, mirror
- Fire starter
- Warm clothes
- Pocket knife
- Shelter/emergency blanket
- Water and food
- First aid kit appropriate for the activity
- Compass/GPS for navigation
- Communications – Do not rely entirely on your cellphone, consider having a Garmin inReach, SPOT, or other satellite communication device
- If you are heading into avalanche terrain, plan ahead and check www.avalanche.ca for current snow conditions. Taking an avalanche awareness course or Avalanche Level 1 course is strongly recommended.
- Each member in a group should have a probe, shovel, and transceiver/beacon. Be proficient in their use prior to going out; a stressful or life threatening situation is not the time to figure it out.
“When you realize you are lost or in trouble, it is best to stay in place. We teach the children to hug a tree. The same goes for adults. It keeps everyone safe and reduces the search area,” said VSAR spokesperson Coralie Nairn. “A great free resource is the AdventureSmart.ca, they have a free Trip Plan App that aids policing and SAR units.”
If all else fails, never be afraid to call for help.
“Double check your gear, then check it again. Taking these steps can greatly reduce the amount of time it may take rescuers to locate you in an emergency, which could be significant in a life or death situation,” added Terleski.
For more backdoor safety information, visit Adventuresmart.ca.