Just the other day a 10 year old boy was lost in the Uinta Mountain outside of Salt Lake City. As a parent of a 6 year old my heart sank when I heard the news. I couldn’t imagine what the parents were going through. Thank goodness the boy was found safe after 29 hours alone in the wilderness.
This story along with other young children getting lost while spending time in the outdoors has given me motivation to talk to J-Man about survival skills and procedures, if heaven forbid, he ever gets lost. We have discussed here and there while hiking what to do, however, we have never really had a heart to heart about it… until now.
I sat down with J-Man and asked him what he should do if he gets lost. Here are my questions along with his answers…
♦ What would be the first thing you do if you got lost? Yell for you or use my whistle.
♦ What if no one responds? You always should stay in place.
♦ What would you do next? Hang out and wait for search and rescue.
♦ What if you get really thirsty or hungry? If there is a lake or stream close by go get a drink.
♦ What if you get cold? If there are big leaves lay them on the ground and then cover yourself with more.
♦ What if it starts getting dark? I don’t know.
Looks like some things have sunk in, however, there was some clarification and answers that needed to be addressed, which leads me to…
Wilderness Safety Tips For Kids
Staying with the group is important, however, we know kids love to roam and explore. How do we let them have some freedom without them venturing too far and getting lost?
I like to initially scout the area with J-Man and make sure there aren’t any hidden dangers (unstable boulders or trees, cliffs, water holes, abandoned mines, etc.) I then set a perimeter and let him know that he can not explore past such and such tree or a specific landmark. I also make sure that he is close enough that we can hear each other. If he ventures too far away and cries for help I won’t be able to hear him.
What does he do if he gets lost…
1. Stay put. It’s easier to find someone in the area they went missing, so staying put is important. Unless he is in a dangerous spot or can see a nearby open space he is to stay where he is when he realizes he is lost. An open space can allow him to be seen easier if a helicopter flies overhead.
2. Whistle. A whistle is louder and easier to hear over moving water or wind. It is much easier to blow a whistle than to cry for help, especially if he is distressed.
3. Essentials. He can use the essentials in his backpack to keep him warm, hydrated and fed…rationing his food and water.
4. SOS. If he is near an open space he can use rocks or branches to spell SOS on the ground or draw it out with a branch or his foot. If he sees or hears a helicopter he can make himself look big by laying on the ground and moving his arms and legs up and down like he’s making a snow angel. Movement is much easier to spot.
5. Know everyone is out looking for him and he will be back with mom and dad soon.
Side note: If he wanders from camp and doesn’t have his backpack or whistle then it gets a bit trickier. He needs to stay put, yell for help and if he gets cold he can find leaves to cover himself to stay warm.
Writing this gives me anxiety. I hope none of us EVER experiences our child getting lost in the wilderness. If you haven’t had a talk with your child I urge you to do so. It could save their lives, just as it did the 10 year old boy’s.
What am I missing? What survival tips would you add to this?