10 Emergency Tips: Making Yourself OK

Years ago I found myself climbing solo up a mountain, in the middle of the night, when I had the dreaded “uh oh” moment. I had lost the trail. This situation was further complicated by the fact that I had very little hiking experience and the trail was Mount Whitney. At this time I invite all Whitney hikers to crack up laughing as the trail is so well-traveled that it should be impossible to lose. I’d accomplished the impossible, I’d lost it.

I lost it both literally and figuratively, halting in my tracks, freaking out, and staring incredulously at an endless landscape of nothing but rock. My heart raced as I had blundered along in fear and somehow could not even figure out now from where I’d come. Everywhere I looked, all that could be seen was what appeared to be the moon.

Rationality was also nowhere to be found as I envisioned myself continuing to wander until, hundreds of miles off course, I was eaten by wild animals while helicopters circled in the distance, unable to locate my corpse as it had grown so cold that infra-red was shelved in favor of scanning the pitch dark mountain by the one rescue team that had been hired in response to an age discrimination lawsuit. So my geriatric EMTs would throw in the towel and head back to the city for their blue plate breakfast while I was being digested in the stomach of a bear.

I know what you are thinking, “do not ever introduce this woman to hallucinogenic drugs!”

Yes, I found the trail. Yes, I made it to the top of the mountain and it  was all because I made myself ok. Here are some ideas for making yourself ok when adventuring and these might also apply to everyday life.

1) Breathe – Just time yourself and spend 2-3 minutes breathing calmly.

2) Stretch – Stand and do a little stretching, simple and calming.

3) Look – Take time to look around and assess the situation. Fire? Stop, drop, and roll. Bear? Follow bear protocol. All else, just look. I found the Whitney trail in the dark after I calmed down and started walking in small circles, looking for marks. It took a bit of time but I figured it out.

4) Be Still – Don’t race off or run around frantic. If it helps, force yourself to actually sit down. Allow your heart rate to settle.

5) Help – What do you have that will help? Cell service? Call a friend. No service? Maps, other hikers. Water, tea, power bars. The key here is to find something small that will help transition you from fear to problem solving.

6) Time –  If you are in trouble, will someone likely come along if you just wait? On Whitney, I absolutely would’ve had company within 3-4 hours.

7) Hand – I often tell my kids when we’re in the car and need to get over into another lane to roll their window down and put their hand out. It works 100% of the time and there’s a reason. It’s humanity, no denying that a hand is attached to a real live human being. When we’re enclosed, we can ignore and be ignored. Any connectedness and humanity comes stampeding in the second we notice it and that it’s being directed at us. Trail trouble, connect and ask for help. Car trouble, don’t sit and wait. Get out and wave.

8) Think – I listed this one later as it is more effective when you calm down and give yourself a few minutes. Try coming up with several possible actions. On Whitney I considered waiting but it was very cold and I was worried about my schedule due to a forecasted storm. Eventually I went with the plan to carefully circle while paying close attention to my location so as to not veer farther off course.  On a hike in New Mexico where the loss of the trail was a challenge, we opted to leave Hansel and Gretel type markers.

9) Hydrate – In any case where you have water, take a moment to drink some. Just the act of something so rote can center you but also keeping hydrated is incredibly important to brain function. *Attn. Hikers – invest in a water purifier, it is absolutely a life saver.

10) Believe – Know that statistically you are most likely not in as dire straights as it initially feels you are. Believe that you can figure out your predicament but do this without false bravado. Talk to yourself like you would if you were giving a friend advice.

Finally, these ten tricks can be utilized in a number of situations but for adventuring, please have water, food, first aid kit, and if heading into the backcountry, a purifier and emergency blanket (the foil ones also come in handy to spread out on the ground in an area where any search and rescue can spot it from the air).

We’ve listed some links here that also might be helpful.

Hiking Tips: http://hikingdude.com/hiking-tips.php

Red Cross Road Tips:  http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/highway-safety

Tips for communicating during an emergency:  http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/emergency-information/tips.html

*”Like”/share or Tweet if you wish and HAVE FUN! Grateful. 🙂



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