Trailside 911

Advance Planning is Your Best Defense in a Wilderness Emergency
By C. Ben Woodard & Betsey Foster
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Trailside 911
It's a beautiful day in the mountains. You and your friends are hiking back to the car after a long day on the trail. Martha, the leader of your group, is leaping from rock to rock with a 20-pound daypack. Suddenly, you hear a gut-wrenching scream and see her crumpled among the boulders.

When you reach her, you see her leg wedged between several large rocks. It looks like she has a second kneecap where her shin should be. Martha has suffered a fractured fibula. You and the rest of your group are still above tree line, clouds are moving in, and there is only one hour of daylight left. What do you do next? The better question in Martha's case and almost every emergency in the wilderness is not what do you do next, but what should you have done before the accident?

The best way to handle an emergency is to avoid having one in the first place. Most mishaps happen because a group has not planned well for its trip and is ill-prepared for an emergency.

In Martha's case, planning would have put the group on the trail earlier and well below the tree line before day's end. Most accidents happen toward the end of the day, when people are tired and less cautious, so plans should always call for an early finish.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 4 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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