Arizona Trailblazers Emergency Procedure

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:
  1. Don’t panic. Compose yourself and use good judgment.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If you dispense any medicine, write the date, time, drug name, and dose on the patient’s arm.
  6. If the patient recovers enough to continue, the whole group should promptly return to the trailhead by the safest, shortest, and easiest way possible.
If evacuation is required, the primary need (other than the patient) is communication – a way to call for help.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Make sure both the Help party and the group staying behind have club radios with strong batteries.
  4. Make sure the Help party knows where the injured person is located. For example:
    1. Write down the trail location, such as, “nnn miles n/s/e/w of the yyy trailhead on the zzz trail.”
    2. Write down the GPS coordinates, verified from at least two GPS units.
    3. Record the current location as a waypoint in the Help party’s GPS units.
    4. Mark the location on a paper map.
    5. All the above.
    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, and state.
  5. Ask the Help party for anything the main party would need to continue medical care or stay overnight.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 updated February 3, 2014 © Copyright 2014 Arizona Trailblazers.  All rights reserved.