Desert Safety

Saturday, April 10, 2010
Desert Safety

Many people each year have mishaps in the desert which could have been avoided or made less serious with some pre-planning. Extreme conditions are found in the desert from the valley floor to the high mountains. Following is a list of preparations to be made before your hike or trip to the desert, a basic list of supplies, and suggestions for what to do if you become lost or stranded.

Before your trip
Let someone at home know your travel or hiking plans and a time you will return! If you do get lost or break down, the people at home will know where to start looking. Also, let these people know if your plans change.

Learn about the area, get accurate maps and weather conditions, and plan your agenda conservatively if you are traveling or hiking in an unfamiliar area.

Bring gear appropriate for your activity, the expected range of conditions and the planned length of your stay. Many people have been fooled by changing conditions. We often hear statements like, "...we did not expect thunder storms in the desert", or "...we didn't expect it to get so cold at night, " or "we didn't know it was so far between here to there..."

Survival Tools
  • Proper clothing for your activity (sun glasses, hat, sunscreen, wind breaker, long sleeved shirt for change in weather)
  • Good walking shoes, boots, or well-fitting riding boots
  • Food (lunch or non-melting snacks)
  • Water - at least one gallon per person per day
  • Maps, compass, knowledge of the area prior to trip (note land marks as you travel)
  • Small First aid kit
  • Waterproof matches (in a case or film canister)
  • Camping and emergency tools (depending on the transportation)
  • Knife
  • Flash light
  • Signaling device (mirror, aerial or road flares)
  • Rope or cord
  • Duct or electrician's tape
  • Small bright colored tarp or ground cover
  • Day pack, cargo carrier or saddle bag to carry the preceding gear
  • Vehicle tools, high-lift jack, extra fuel, and spare parts (like spark plugs, fan belts, hose clamps), depending on your vehicle.
If lost alone in the desert
  • STOP, look around for other people.
  • Shout and listen for a response.
  • Remain calm and use reason.
  • Find an open area.
  • Mark your present position and scout around. Always return to your marked position.
  • Before dark, prepare for thenight by finding water, firewood, and shelter.
  • Keep a fire burning for rescuers to see your location.
  • Stay in one spot, it is easier for rescuers to find you.
If Stranded or Broken Down Vehicle
  • Stay with your vehicle or otherwise make yourself visible.
  • Stay put, unless you have a clear and specific destination.
  • Avoid walking during the heat of the day. Morning and evening walking is better for conserving your body's moisture.
  • Seek shelter from the elements, but try to make yourself visible (like smoke from a signal fire, or bright colored tarp).
Cell Phones and Common Sense
Cell phones have become a convenient way to call for help in just about every situation these days. However, caution must be taken to think that they will be reliable or expect to work at all times. Most areas in Clark County, except for urban areas, are not covered. Rugged terrain, atmospheric conditions, or low battery power can disrupt reception.

Cell phones should not be used as a replacement for good common sense. When venturing into the outdoors, be prepared by following the steps above. Remember, just because you are carrying a cell phone does not ensure a means of rescue.