Here’s my wilderness emergency procedure.
I’m sure it could be expanded and enhanced many times over but this is
what’s occurred to me so far.
I find it comforting to know what I’d do in a real emergency.
If a hiker becomes too sick or injured to continue:
If evacuation is required, the primary need (other than the patient) is
communication – a way to call for help.
- Don’t panic. Compose yourself and use good judgment.
- Identify the best caregiver in the group. Hopefully this will be a doctor
or nurse, but it might also be an EMT, one-time medic, someone who took a
first aid class once, or just someone with experience in the suspected condition.
You can only work with what you have.
Diagnose the problem as best you can.
- Ask the patient if this has ever happened before, what it is, and if
(it’s familiar) how to treat it.
- Consult the manual in the club first aid pack.
- Use any other references (including smartphone apps) that anyone may have.
- Provide all possible comfort and assistance. Ask the rest of the group for
suggestions and for any medical supplies that aren’t in the club pack.
- If you dispense any medicine, write the date, time, drug name, and dose on
the patient’s arm.
- If the patient recovers enough to continue, the whole group should promptly
return to the trailhead by the safest, shortest, and easiest way possible.
- To begin, ask everyone in the group to turn on their cell phones and check
for a signal. If even one person has one bar, use it to call 911.
- If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to organize a Help party.
This should consist of several fast experienced hikers who can reliably find
their way back to the trailhead. One of them should be a driver, and of course
the primary caregiver should stay with the patient. Enough people should stay
back to organize a second Help party if necessary.
- Make sure both the Help party and the group staying behind have club radios
with strong batteries.
Make sure the Help party knows where the injured person is located. For example:
Make sure the Help party takes these items with them and knows what they are.
They should also know the patient’s symptoms, diagnosis, treatment,
- Write down the trail location, such as, “nnn miles n/s/e/w of the
yyy trailhead on the zzz trail.”
- Write down the GPS coordinates, verified from at least two GPS units.
- Record the current location as a waypoint in the Help party’s
- Mark the location on a paper map.
- All the above.
- Ask the Help party for anything the main party would need to continue
medical care or stay overnight.
- Send the Help party to the trailhead. En route, they should frequently
check their cell phones for a signal. The tops of hills and anywhere within
sight of a city or highway are both good places to try. As soon as anyone has
a signal they should, of course, call 911.
- If the Help party reaches the trailhead and still doesn’t have a
signal, they should drive toward the closest town in search of one.
- The help party should stay in touch with the main party as long as possible,
and be prepared to relay emergency instructions if they get a cellphone signal
and a radio signal at the same time.
- The main party should periodically blow whistles and signal any aircraft
that may pass by. If there’s a road of any kind nearby, it may be useful
to post people in pairs to flag down passing vehicles.
- Be alert to passing bicyclists or horse riders, who may be capable of
finding a cell phone signal more quickly. Make sure they’ve got your
location as described in item 4.