Despite your best planning, something has gone wrong. You or a member of your group is lost, injured, has had an equipment failure or you have found someone who is in need of more help than you or your group can provide.

What now?

If you have cell service, call 911, ask for the RCMP or BCAS and then state that it is a backcountry emergency and you will need Search and Rescue.

If you have no cell service then use your GPS communicator if you have one. If you have a trip plan filed you may need to wait for that person to summon help. Maybe you need to send a member of your party back to summon help. What will happen if they get into trouble? Can you avoid sending them alone? These are issues you will need to resolve, but if you need help you need to work out how it is going to happen.

Once that is done you need to sit tight and wait, and think about the following:

Checklists in Emergencies

  • Remain calm – As obvious as this may sound, most people who become lost in the wilderness stop thinking straight and quite often make the situation worse.
  • Stop moving – As soon as you realize you’re lost, stop moving. It is far easier for search and rescue personnel to locate you if you stay in one location. Generally, people who keep moving wander farther from the trail and go deeper into the backcountry.
  • Find shelter – Because you’ve packed your 10 Essentials, you should have everything you need to create a reasonably dry shelter. If you don’t have an emergency tarp, look for a dry area near the base of a tree or under a log. It is critically important that you stay out of the rain or snow.
  • Build a fire – Fires are not only a source of heat and comfort, but can help occupy your time and mind. Being lost is not an excuse for starting a forest fire however, so be careful if you opt to build a fire.
  • Be visible – Do everything you can to be visible from the air and the ground during the day. Use a whistle or other signalling device to help rescuers or other backcountry users to find you.