What should adults know before bringing children into the outdoors?

Parents should review our FAQ: What should children know before going into the outdoors? with their children before taking them into the outdoors. It is based on the Hug-A-Tree and Survive Program developed by the San Diego Search and Rescue Team in response to the Search for Jimmy Beveridge who was found too late. Jimmy was so panicked when he discovered he was lost that he actually lost his shoe. By the time Jimmy was found, he had died of hypothermia. See Mission 1981-006.

Here are some points to keep in mind when reviewing the program with your child.

One of the greatest fears a person of any age can have is of being alone. Hugging a tree or other stationary object and even talking to it calms the child down, and prevents panic. By staying in once place, the child is found far more quickly, and can't be injured in a fall.

Give your child a trash bag and whistle to carry on a picnic, hike, or camping trip. By making a hole [1] in the side of the bag for the face, and putting it over the head, it will keep the child dry and warm. The whistle is louder than the child's voice and takes less energy to use.

[1] Without this hole, there is danger of suffocation.

Time and again children have avoided searchers because they were ashamed of getting lost, and afraid of punishment. Anyone can get lost, adult or child. If they know a happy reunion filled with love is waiting, they will be less frightened, less prone to panic, and work hard to be found.

Help your child be more visible. From helicopters, people are hard to see. Your child should wear bright clothing for outdoor activities. Tell them to waive their arms when planes or helicopters are flying around.

Fears of the dark and lions and tigers and bears are a big factor in panicking children into running. They need strong reassurance to stay put and be safe. Let them know that there are no animals that want to hurt them.

Many children don't realize that many people are looking for them. They are looking for their friends and family. Some are afraid of strangers and people in uniform, and don't respond to yells. Many have actually hidden from searchers they knew were looking for them.

Teach your child to stay on the trails and to always keep an adult within sight.

Be prepared for the possibility that your child may become lost. Know exactly what your child is wearing, especially which shoes they are wearing. Have the child step on a piece of aluminum foil that is on a towel or carpet. With this print, trackers can separate your child's track from the hundreds of others in the area, and quickly determine the direction of travel.

Call the Sheriff quickly if your child becomes lost. It's okay to do a quick search of the area but this should only last a few minutes. Don't be concerned about the possibility of creating a false alarm, there is really no such thing in situations like this. Searchers enjoy what they do and don't mind being called for "possible false alarms". The biggest problem confronting searchers today is simply getting people to call immediately after discovering that a child is missing. The area that needs to be searched expands rapidly as time progresses.

Be available for interviewing. Clues which lead to finding the child in good shape usually come from family and friends who remain on the scene and talk openly and accurately with the search leader or his representative.

Related FAQ: What should children know before going into the outdoors?