As the weather gets warmer, there is typically a spike in the number of calls reporting missing hikers, bikers and campers, says Cpl. Mark Amatto, who estimates that the detachment typically gets around 20 to 30 calls from mid summer to mid autumn.
Amatto says missing individuals can be located quickly as long as concerned friends and relatives take immediate action.
“We have a very good track record of getting to the people that we need for a recovery,” he states.
For this reason, a call to report a missing person should be made sooner rather than later.
“There is no such thing as waiting 24 hours to call the police,” he says. “If you’ve got a bad feeling or if somebody’s supposed to have checked in and they’ve overshot the expected time frame, call.”
The caller should provide descriptive details about the missing person, he explains, including the clothing they were last wearing, the route they were taking, the vehicle they were driving along with the licence plate, and any medical conditions they have and medications they could be taking.
Hikers, bikers and campers should tell friends and relatives where they are going prior to the trip, he adds. That way, if something happens, a specific location can be narrowed down for a search party.
Too many trekkers rely solely on their phone to get them out of a bad situation, says Amatto, which can be problematic, as many remote areas have no cell service.
“There’s quite a few people who will count on Google Maps to help them out of backcountry, until they realize they have no map and don’t know where they’re going, and they’re not dressed appropriately or they don’t have the right footwear, and if they fall down and hurt themselves, we don’t know where to send crews to help them,” he explains.
All outdoors persons should carry a usable GPS unit with built-in search-and-rescue technology, he says, and have bear spray close at hand. When camping, all valuables should be locked up or hidden to make a tent less appealing to thieves.
In the event someone does become lost, they should activate the SOS feature on their GPS device and wait for a rescue team, says Amatto.
If they have a physical map and feel confident enough to self-rescue, they should do so, he adds, making sure to leave sticks or rocks in the shape of a big arrow to mark the direction they are heading and to follow a river or body of running water in order to locate the nearest community.
If they are completely lost and disorientated, they can start blowing an emergency whistle in groups of three bursts or make smoke signals with a controlled fire.
Following the proper protocol not only keeps outdoor explorers safe, Amatto says, but also removes a burden from police and rescue teams, making search operations less time-intensive and costly.