Thursday, February 20, 2014

Survival For Children

One of the most serious situations that can arise is when a member of the family wanders away from camp and becomes lost. This is especially terrifying when the lost person is a child.

Every year, many children get lost while the family is camping or even just on a picnic. It happens in a heartbeat, you turn your back for a minute, and a child can wander away. It happens all the time. Sometimes, the child is found alive, but sometimes they are never found at all.

And I’m not just talking about little kids. Take the case of Garrett Bardsley — a Boy Scout who was camping with his troop and with his father when he became lost and was never found, in spite of intensive searching.

As responsible adults, we need to take steps to help keep children safe. And that begins with teaching them how to stay safe, and giving them the tools they need to do that.

Some adults think children can’t learn outdoor survival concepts, but that’s just not true. When our family lived for a year in the wilderness, our 3-year-old daughter went with me every day to set primitive traps and hunt wild edible plants. Even at that young age, she was able to learn the Latin and common names of the plants, and what they were good for. So I refuse to believe that you can’t teach youngsters about survival.

Each child should be taught that wandering away from camp is not allowed. It is helpful to take a family hike through the entire campground, taking the time to point out landmarks and how they relate to the location of the family's camp. If the children are permitted to hike around and explore, teach them to turn around and look back at your campsite every now and then, just to make sure they haven't wandered out of sight of the main camp.

Each member of the group should be outfitted with both audible and visual signal devices. A lightweight but powerful whistle such as the Storm Safety Whistle sold by outdoor equipment retailers is claimed to be many times louder than U.S. military whistles. If someone becomes separated from camp and can't find the way back, the whistle is used to call for help. The nice thing about audible signaling devices is that they can be used day or night. For visual signaling during daylight hours, it's hard to beat a small, unbreakable signal mirror. These are available at sporting goods outlets for less than $10. The flash from a mirror in bright sunlight can signal the location of a lost individual across many miles — much farther than an audible signal carries.

These small, inexpensive and lightweight devices are a tremendous help in locating a lost individual. But it is necessary that those who have these items of equipment know how to use them. A fun family outing could be built around a simulated survival incident in which each person must actually use the audible and visual signal devices to get "rescued." This is on the same order as running fire drills at home, so each person knows how to react in an emergency.

By the way, a signal whistle can help save a child who is lost or abducted from a shopping mall or other public area. Just think about that for a minute.

Whenever you head into the backcountry, ask yourself — "What if we have to stay longer than planned? What do we need to survive?" This is a key concept, because you never know when you will unexpectedly end up in an emergency situation that turns into a survival incident

Hope it never happens, but prepare for the worst.

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