Members of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team have put together a form that may save lives.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Filling out a simple form may make the difference between life and death for hikers. The form, designed by Montrose Search and Rescue members, is an effort to get as much information as possible about hikers before they head out and possibly need the team’s help.
“There has been so much [rescue] activity statewide,” said Mike Leum, member of Montrose Search and Rescue Team.
The team primarily works the Angeles National Forest area but has been called out to Yosemite and Sequoia recently as well. They are trained in all types of rescue from ice to canyons.
Many times information on missing hikers can be vague. For example, family and friends may know the hiker was in the Angeles National Forest but not what trail he or she was to hike.
The team begins looking for the missing hiker’s vehicle and then begins searching the nearby area, which at times can encompass several different trails.
Sometimes the hiker has not told anyone of his or her intent to hike and simply go out alone and begin walking.
“Throughout the course of our patrol on the weekends we identify cars and [monitor them] to see what cars are still there [at the end of the day or weekend],” Leum said.
The form is a hiking plan that includes information that will be helpful to search and rescue teams in case they are needed. It asks for the names of all who are hiking in the party, their ages, phone numbers and any medical issues. Included is an idea of when the area the hike is planned to begin and end as well as the date and time of the hike.
Hikers are also asked to provide a list of equipment they will be packing on their walk, including water and protective gear. This is important because rescuers will know what equipment they will need to bring while searching. For example, for one rescue the Montrose Search and Rescue Team found hikers who had gone into the snowy mountains of Angeles National Forest with no jackets and wearing sandals.
Those filling out the hiking plan are also asked to sketch a map of their hike. This will give searchers an idea of the initial plan, even if the hiker deviated from the original route.
As always Montrose Search and Rescue Team members want hikers to enjoy nature but to be prepared.
“Don’t hike alone, be prepared with appropriate equipment and supplies and be familiar with where you are going,” Leum said.
A few weeks ago the team rescued a 37-year-old woman who began her five-hour hike to Twin Peaks in ANF at 3 p.m.
“She was by herself and had never been at that location before,” Leum said of the rescue.
After about seven hours of hiking the woman called 911 to report she was lost. She was found about midnight.
Reception is tricky in the ANF and although the woman was able to get the 911 call out, rescuers could not use the global positioning system on her phone to help locate her.
“About 20% of our calls for rescue are from cellphones,” Leum said. He advised hikers to keep their cellphones turned off while on the trails.
“While it is on the phone is searching for a cell tower. That will drain the battery,” he said. “Once you get north of Mt. Wilson, cell reception is very minimal but there are a few [active] spots.”
Leum added the team loses contact with about half of those who initially contacted them with a cellphone due to battery loss. If the phone is off, the battery will be ready if GPS or an emergency call is needed, he added.
For a copy of the form, visit http://file.lacounty.gov/lasd/cms1_163961.pdf.