Tips for Placing Emergency Calls in the Backcountry

Not every emergency-related situation is the same, but here are some helpful tips on getting in touch with help while way out in the backcountry.

  • Consider carrying a satellite communication device for hikes that take you beyond cell service (we got lucky).
  • Try to remain in pairs. While I had my dog Remi with me, and both of my friends had each other, I was alone finding cell service without knowing if there were additional people (either in need of help or potentially dangerous) on the trail ahead.
  • Know your location. Know the trail you’re on, the access points (there-and-back or thru-hike with multiple trailheads), and know how to access your exact location coordinates on your phone. Even without service, Google maps can give you your exact coordinates using GPS. If you do have service, you can use the “share location” feature to share your location with SAR.
  • Once you see you have service and you make a call, stay where you are until instructed otherwise. You know you have service in that location, and if you start to wander you may lose the signal and call before receiving instructions or communicating the situation. 
  • Remain calm and speak clearly when communicating with SAR or others. If you panic and are difficult to understand, it can cost time. 

Written by Alix Whitener

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