Outdoor Safety Tips

An outdoors emergency may develop at any time with lightning-quick speed. Anticipate potential dangers associated with specific outings: High-altitude situations, dehydration and heat problems, problems caused by cold. Take into account the relative accessibility of outside professional medical care.

The following suggestions are from the Sierra Club's "Outing Leader Handbook."


- Prevent further injury to the victim. Stop arterial bleeding,

restore breathing, check for pulse, and, if necessary, begin CPR.

Maintain adequate body warmth and treat for shock.

- Do not move the victim until you have ascertained the injuries.

- Practice the STOP scenario - Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.

Thoroughly consider the situation before you plan a course of

action. Speed is less important than correct response.

- Decide whether to evacuate the victim with available resources

or send for help. Ideally, one person should stay with the victim

and two should go for help. Messengers seeking help should

have written information as to the location and nature of the

injury. Advise messengers to save strength for the return trip.


- Heat stroke: Victim is uncoordinated, confused, delirious and

convulsing. Body temperature must be lowered immediately

by sponging with tepid water, fanning and cool drinks.

Evacuation recommended.

- Heat exhaustion: Victim is cool, clammy, dizzy, has a headache,

and may have cramps. Liquids and rest with a lowered head


- Acute mountain sickness: Caused by too rapid an ascent to above about 9,000 feet. Victim has headache, drowsiness, loss

of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abnormal sleep patterns.

Treat with descent to about 3,000 feet, rest, adequate fluid

intake and headache pain medicine. Do not administer sleeping

medicines as they may mask pulmonary edema symptoms.

- High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE): Symptoms

are shortness of breath and rapid respiration, weakness,

disorientation, cough, frothy pink sputum and racing pulse.

Treatment is immediate descent, rest and oxygen.

- Frostbite: In its beginning stage, flesh is unfrozen but turns

gray and waxy-looking. If there is no chance of refreezing, treat

superficial frostbite by warming affected body parts in 102- to

106-degree water for 30 to 45 minutes. Unless you can maintain

proper treatment, don't begin it; you can walk on frozen feet

but not on partially thawed feet. Rubbing or applying direct

heat to the body parts increases damage.

- Hypothermia: This insidious drain of body energy is often not

recognized until it is life-threatening. Always assess its potential

and be prepared for changing weather. Avoid wet clothing and dress in layers. Beware of wind-chill factor and cover your head

and hands. Take action as soon as symptoms begin.

With mild hypothermia, victim is indecisive, loses fine motor

control, shivers, and is tired. Warm the person in any possible

way, administer warm drinks, and get the victim into warm, dry

clothing. Seek protection from the elements and maintain food

and water.

With severe hypothermia, victim is sleepy, confused, irritable,

staggers, and has slurred speech. Pulse is slow, pupils are dilated,

and breathing is shallow. Place the naked victim in a sleeping

bag and have he or she maintain skin-to-skin contact with

another person.

- Rattlesnake bite: Get victim away from the snake to avoid a

second strike. Victim should remain calm and lay down to

keep the bite area above the heart. Put pressure on the bite

with a pressure extractor pump or by an elastic bandage. Do

NOT use tourniquets, cut the bite area, or suck venom from the

wound. Evacuate victim immediately.

Common sense, combined with knowledge of the terrain, level

of activity required and weather predictions, can spell life or

death in an outdoors crisis.


These are outdoors outing items Sierra Club leaders say you should never be without, whether on a day- or weeklong outing. Some are handy for use at any time; others may be waterproofed and kept in your pack for emergencies.

- Map of area

- Compass

- Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb

- Sunglasses

- Extra food and water

- Extra clothing, including gloves and a warm hat

- Waterproof matches

- Candle for starting fires

- Pocket knife

- First-aid kit


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