Safety Moment: Will You Be a Rescue Statistic?


The Boston Globe recently reported that from 2004 to 2014 a total of 46,609 people required search and rescue aid– and that is just in the country’s national parks.  The Globe further reported the death toll from those needing rescue was 1,578 with another 13,957 people injured and a rescue cost exceeding $51 million.  In 2014 alone more than 3400 people required search and rescue assistance and once again that is just in the national park system.  Data outside of national parks is sporadic at best but the clear message, more and more people are putting themselves at risk in the out of doors with ever dire results.

The Globe identified some other interesting statistics; men constitute about 53% of all rescues, 32% of all rescues involve youth from 0-29 (another 26% are people over 50).  The most common place where rescues missions were required involved mountainous or canyon terrain (50%) and the most frequent activity which required rescue was a day hike (42%).

The reasons which led to the need for rescue were even more interesting. Based on the Globe story, in 23% of the rescue efforts poor physical condition or fatigue was the cause; in 33% of the cases the reason for rescue was an error in judgment, poor preparation and equipment or inattention.  While thankfully 93% of all search and rescue efforts resulted in a positive outcome, 3% of those lost have never been found.

Now that you have sworn off going to a national park, how can we decrease the likelihood of a rescue in your future? Start with a plan and conduct a safety moment to identify potential risks including asking the following questions:

  • Do you have a buddy? Never go alone, even if it is only walking a “short distance” from camp.
  • Where are you going and what are you doing?
  • If hiking, do you know how far you will be going, how long it will take and what the terrain will be like?
  • Do you have enough food and water WITH you?
  • Are you drinking water regularly?
  • Do you have a headlamp or flashlight WITH you?
  • Are you prepared for the weather and temperatures?
  • Do you have a map of the area?
  • Did you tell someone where you are going and when you will be back?


By following these guidelines of the National Park Service Preventive Search and Rescue you will reduce the chance of getting lost and increase the chance of being found quickly if you are.

Another important consideration, even for a short-day hike or stroll from camp, is to always carry the 10 Essentials:

  • Map and compass
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Insulation/rain
  • Illumination
  • First Aid
  • Fire
  • Knife/multitool
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Emergency shelter (survival shelter, plastic tube, even a garbage bag)


By taking these precautions and carrying the ten essentials, the odds are stacked dramatically in your favor for a day filled with the wonder of the out of doors instead of hoping for a safe rescue. 


Contributed by: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Risk Management Division

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  1. Excellent ideas. All pretty simple. A family member recently participated in searching for a lost hiker who hiked alone in poor health without adequate supplies and without adequately notifying others of his plans. He was supposedly only going a few hundred yards to a location he had frequented years earlier. But wilderness areas change over time. He got turned around and ended up miles away from base camp. Fortunately he was able to find a spot with cell phone coverage and call for help. With air support rescuers were able to hike to the remote area and evacuate the fellow by working throughout the night. He came out OK, thanks to the time, effort, and expense incurred for his benefit. But it could easily have turned out much worse. Simply following these basic rules would have prevented the whole incident.

  2. Bill H Moore says:

    Some great information here, but not reaching the audience most affected. Scouting teaches these things, and Scouts are a very small percentage of the people who get into trouble. A problem not mentioned is lightning/weather. BSA has a good online course to cover recognizing those problems and our Scout leaders are asked to take that course.

    One item NOT on the list is a whistle. When lost, it’s hug-a-tree and blow your whistle. The sound carries much further than the human voice which eventually gives out.

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