If you ever find yourself lost, the most important thing to remember is to hug-a-tree. Children need to know how not to get lost, how to stay comfortable if they get lost, and how to be spotted and found. It is our sincere hope that your children never need this knowledge, but if you discuss the following information with your child, it may help them to remember one or more facts that will make the search short and successful.
Always Carry a Whistle
On picnic, hike, or camping trip, have your children carry a whistle with them at all times. Place a piece of string on the whistle to carry around their neck. The whistle will carry farther than the child's voice and takes less energy to use.
Hug a Tree
Once you know you are lost, one of the greatest fears a person of any age can have is of being alone. Hugging a tree and even talking to it calms the child down and prevents panic. By staying in one place, the child is found far more quickly and can't be injured in a fall.
Your Parents Won't be Angry
Time and again, children have avoided searchers because they were ashamed of getting lost and afraid of punishment. Anyone can get lost, adult or child. If they know a happy reunion filled with love is awaiting, they will be less frightened, less prone to panic, and work hard to be found. Special not to parents: Consider carefully your emotions both during and after a search. Your child wants to be found and anger is not going to help either yourself or the child once found.
Make Yourself Big
From the air, people are hard to see when they are standing in a group of trees or wearing dark and drab clothing, especially children. Find and hug a tree near a small clearing if possible. Wear a bright colored jacket when you go near the woods or desert. Lie down when the helicopter flies over. If it is cool and you are rested, make crosses or "SOS" in broken shrubbery, rocks or by dragging your foot in the dirt.
THERE ARE NO ANIMALS OUT THERE THAT CAN HURT YOU!If you hear a noise at night, yell at it. If it is an animal it will run away. If it is a searcher, you are found. Fears of the dark and of "Lions and Tigers and Bears" are a big factor in panicking children into running. They need strong reassurance to stay put and be safe.
You Have Many Friends Looking For You
We have had children in the area of a search tell us, "My parents would never spend the money to search for me with all these people." Search personnel are professionals and volunteers who charge nothing and do it because they care. Many children who are lost don't realize that if they sit down and stay put, one of a few hundred people will find them. Some are afraid of strangers, or men in uniform, and don't respond to yells, and have actually hidden from searchers they knew were looking for them.
Try to keep from getting lost in the first place. Children are easily distracted off the trail so teach them to stay on the trail. Never let your child walk the trails alone. pick out a high landmark such as a prominent hill, or note the direction of the sun; this prevents disorientation.
Admit it to yourself when you become lost. It can and does happen to anyone, yet is a source of shame when it happens. When you become lost, admit it, accept it, and take actions to be comfortable and in the area when the searchers arrive. Use your head - it's the best survival tool you have.
Call 911 quickly if your child is lost. The search area expands so quickly due to the lost person's possible movements that rapid response is critically important. A call to the police department which is canceled gives the searchers practice and helps keep them alert. A slow response is dangerous, especially if bad weather wipes out the track and exposure is a consideration.
Be available for interviewing. Clues which lead to finding the child in good shape usually come from family and friends who remain on the scene and talk openly and accurately with the search leader or his/her representative. Any personal information will be kept confidential.