What to do in an Emergency
Whilst the vast majority of walking trips go off without a hitch it’s also important to be prepared for any eventuality and, unfortunately accidents and emergencies do occasionally occur. They are more usually associated with a member of your walking party getting injured or falling ill or can sometimes be caused by getting caught out by freak weather conditions. However, whilst no one can predict the future, it’s important to be prepared for the unforeseen, to have accident and emergency equipment with you, such as a first aid kit and emergency survival kit and to know how to use the contents of both items and how to conduct yourself in the event of an accident or emergency happening.
Don’t PanicWhether there has been an accident or some other kind of emergency situation, the golden rule is to keep calm and to try to be a calming influence on all other members of your party. It doesn’t matter a jot what equipment, gadgetry and other supplies you’ve brought with you, it will be your attitude and your ability to remain calm and keep your thoughts and actions rational that will make the difference in an emergency situation and could even mean the difference between life and death in some instances.
AccidentsIf somebody suffers an accident on your trip, it’s necessary for somebody to take responsibility and to take decisions about the most appropriate course of action which is why it’s always useful to have a capable trip leader. Bickering amongst yourselves and disagreements as to what to do next all takes time and the more time you take, the greater the dangers so, even though it’s useful to gauge opinions, the final decision should rest with one person ultimately. Firstly, if someone has an accident, you should ensure that everyone else is moved away from any immediate danger. Then, you should assess the state of the casualty and apply any first aid as appropriate. Your biggest concerns should be to establish that the casualty’s airway is clear and that they are breathing before you deal with any wounds and/or pain management according to first aid guidelines. If the casualty is conscious, you should offer them constant reassurance whilst keeping a close watch on their psychological state.
You’ll also need to keep the casualty warm and as comfortable as possible and discourage any movement, if you suspect it’s something more serious, e.g. a broken neck or back. Keep the casualty informed as to what you’re doing and provide them with food and drink, if appropriate (it isn’t always appropriate, however). After first aid has been administered and depending on the scale of their injuries or illness, you’ll have to decide if it’s safe to move the casualty to a better location, evacuate them altogether or if you need another member of the party to summon help or all sit tight and try to summon help by some other means. There are, however, many factors to take into consideration here, the extent of the injuries, the time of day, the terrain and the weather are just a few of the variables to be considered and it will be necessary to rely on your sound judgement as to what you consider to be the best option in the given situation. There are numerous specialist first-aid resources both in book form and online which are aimed at accidents whilst out in the outdoors and which are extremely useful. Ultimately, however, in some instances, it will be a judgement call based upon the specific nature of the accident, your knowledge, experience and skills.
Emergency SurvivalAnother typical example of an emergency situation is where sudden bad weather, poor judgement, a lack of navigational skills or some other factor has arisen and which has meant that you’ve no alternative for the time being than to stay put and survive until you are found by rescuers. For the untrained, being put in a seemingly helpless situation requiring survival skills can cause an overwhelming sense of panic and many people have lost their lives by trying to extricate themselves from a survival situation, for example, trying to walk aimlessly to safety when they don’t know where they’re going which only puts them in more danger. The crucial thing when faced with an emergency situation is not to panic, to stay put and to remember the priorities and act upon them in the correct order. Here is a list of those priorities in order:
ShelterExtreme cold and even extreme heat are the two greatest enemies of survival. Exposure to the elements can be highly dangerous and is your greatest threat to surviving so you need to find or even build a shelter. This is where your emergency survival kit is vital and the contents of this are explained more fully in another article on this website. If extreme heat is the problem, you should try to stay in your shelter by day and sleep and come out at night when the heat is less intense. More often than not in the UK, however, it’s extreme cold that causes the problem which is why your next priority once you’ve found or built your shelter is to stay warm.
FireIn a wilderness survival situation, fire is going to become one of your best friends. It has several useful purposes and you’re going to be glad of all of them. It provides warmth which is crucial and gives you an added sense of security and boosts your morale. It’s also the means to cook food and to purify water and can provide you with a method of signalling for help.
SignallingYou need to ensure that you remain visible if you’re going to need rescue teams to find you. Smoke signals can be seen for miles in broad daylight, recognised use of whistle signals can also be heard over a great distance and things like mirror signals or anything which reflects the sun’s rays can also be effective in attracting overhead aircraft, helicopters or even residents if you can see houses in the distance.
WaterYou’ll be able to survive without water for a few days but compared to food, water has to be your next priority. If you’re using a local water source, boil the water and preferably use iodine tablets to aid purification where possible. Drinking contaminated water can be highly dangerous.
Food And Conserving Your EnergyYour natural hunger and desire for food is bound to be at the forefront of your mind but it’s important to understand that it’s the least of your priorities when faced with a survival situation. A human being can actually survive for several weeks without food and a way of helping to suppress your hunger is to conserve energy as much as possible. The more you try to do physically each day will only deplete your energy reserves much faster so, although it may go against your natural instincts to do nothing when faced with a survival situation, the less energy you use, the longer your existing food energy reserves will keep you going.
Knowing how to act, remaining calm, having a plan, knowing your priorities, using your judgement, implementing actions and having a first aid and emergency survival kit and how to use it are all crucial components which, if followed on all fronts, will enable you to deal with accidents and emergencies as effectively as possible should you find yourselves in this rare predicament, when out on a walking trip. There are plenty of other book and online resources to help you should you need to brush up certain specialist skills in more depth and numerous first aid and wilderness survival courses which are well worth enrolling on.