Emergency in the Wilderness Survival Guide

How to Get Help By Lanny Grant CSA Safety Director


In the event of an emergency survival situation, accident or if someone is missing, a request for assistance should be made to the Sheriff’s Department for the county you are in. If you are unsure as to your exact location, provide as much information to the 911 dispatcher as possible so that the appropriate agency can be notified of the situation. If calling by cell phone for assistance, carefully explain the nature of the problem and give the dispatcher your number to call back if necessary. If you are unable to contact authorities by cell phone your request for assistance can be made by sending someone, (preferably two people) to the nearest phone. An ill or injured person should not be left alone; the chances for that person’s survival and yours are greater if you stay together. If a single person goes for help and becomes lost or injured, a bad situation is only made worse. Remember that search & rescue teams usually consist of dedicated volunteers that must leave their families and jobs to respond to missions. It takes time to assemble the necessary equipment and personnel to safely conduct a search & rescue mission. Be patient and concentrate on keeping your fire and shelter efficient while waiting for help to arrive. If you hear or see searchers, make yourself seen and heard with your whistle, by waving blaze orange fabric, increasing smoke from the fire or by flashing light signals if it is dark. If you hear or see search aircraft approaching, get out in the open so that you have a better chance of being seen. A signal mirror can be seen for many miles by aircraft. If you find yourself in a situation requiring a helicopter landing at your location, remember these important safety tips:

  • Pack down an area in the snow at least 50’X 50’ for the helicopter to land on.
  • The entire landing zone (LZ) should be a level area a minimum of 125’X 125’ in size and should be free of rocks, trees, logs and other obstacles.
  • Helicopters need to land into the wind; tie orange flagging tape to a small tree or hold it to give the pilot an indication of the wind direction and speed at the ground surface.
  • After the helicopter lands do not approach it unless directed to do so by the flight crew. • Never approach the tail rotor of the aircraft and always stay within sight of the pilot.
  • Do not smoke around the aircraft. These procedures are necessary for the safety of both the flight crew and anyone on the ground and must be strictly followed. If you are prepared, properly equipped and determined to survive your chances of being rescued are very good. Emergencies can happen to anyone; be prepared for the unexpected.