Outdoors Recreation

Outdoor Safety is Key in Mountainous Terrain

Night hikers. Photo by Scott Justus

By Allison Taylor

People continue to flock outdoors as summer winds down and fall approaches. As record numbers of visitors make their way into our area’s forests, safety is an ongoing concern. Jason Davis, owner of North River Farms and co-owner of DB bar D Outfitters, is also a volunteer firefighter serving as the chief of North Transylvania Fire Rescue and the assistant chief of Mills River Fire & Rescue. Both departments provide Search and Rescue response to Pisgah National Forest, as well as additional public and private lands.

Davis sees firsthand the effects of increased traffic in the woods. “Each season, we see increases in the number of Search and Rescue calls, and we respond to everything from lost hikers to mountain biker or rock climber injuries, and everything in between,” he says. “In an area with an abundance of waterfalls, there are also an unfortunate number of waterfall injuries and deaths each year.”

First aid training. Photo by Scott Justus

This makes safety an especially important priority for Davis in his businesses. At North River Farms, daily meetings include safety talks. Last fall, Davis added a Technical Rescue certification in Machinery & Agriculture to his resumé as well.

Kyle Vaughan is the outfitter manager and guide for DB bar D Outfitters, and with the potential dangers in hunting or fly fishing trips, he, too, prioritizes safety. “The outfitter implements a standard safety plan for all guides to follow in the event there is an emergency, and every guide has a minimum of first aid and CPR training to allow them to initiate care while awaiting emergency services,” Vaughan says.

As mid-September brings the start of archery season for whitetail deer, hunter safety becomes more important—both for hunters and for other forest users. Anyone recreating in areas where hunting is allowed is encouraged to wear bright colors during hunting seasons. For hunters, the NC State Hunter’s Safety Course is a great place to start, and it’s required by the state when purchasing a regular hunting license. “We require every adult client that we guide to have the certification prior to a hunt,” Vaughan says.

For anyone going into the woods, here are other safety measures.

• Know your route.
• Stay off waterfalls and away from rocks and water at the tops of falls.
• If you’re solo, have a check-in (someone who knows your intended route and your “when to call for help” time).
• Obtain basic first aid/CPR training, at the least.
• Carry the ten essentials: navigation (map, compass, GPS); sun protection; insulation (clothing layers, rain gear); illumination (headlamp or flashlight; don’t drain your phone); first aid supplies; fire (waterproof matches, lighter, candles); repair kit and tools for bikes/equipment; nutrition (extra food); hydration (extra water/purification options); emergency shelter.

• If you’re lost, stay put!
• Use emergency beacons: PLB is the recommended option. If activated, follow up with a phone call if possible.
• When reporting the emergency, give details on the injury and the location (GPS coordinates are preferred, including any trail intersections, landmarks, etc.).
• If possible, leave someone with the patient and let other forest users or group members meet rescuers to lead them to the exact location.
• Self-rescue for minor injuries, without putting yourself at risk.

• Understand that from the time you call 911, it will take longer for rescue crews to reach you in a wilderness situation, and that wilderness emergencies require specialized response and equipment.
• If there are conflicting reports of the location of the emergency, or if the location is unclear, then timing is longer and resources cannot be focused on one location until it is confirmed.
• Many of our single-track trails are inaccessible by ATV or UTV, so rescuers must enter on foot.
• Carrying out patients is difficult and takes a lot of manpower and time. We have steep terrain and narrow trails; rigging ropes, which can be physically and mentally challenging for the injured patient, may be required.
• Transport by ambulance or helicopter after exiting the woods may be necessary, and those are the only costs that would be incurred. All other rescue efforts leading up to exiting the forest are free of charge.

• Most fire and rescue departments are volunteer-based with some paid positions. Volunteers are dwindling locally and nationwide, and only a handful of departments have full-time, paid staff (mostly in larger towns).
• Contact your local fire or rescue station for more information on becoming a volunteer or donating. Most departments surrounding forests have members that specialize in Wilderness Rescue.

To book an upcoming hunting or fishing trip with DB bar D Outfitters, or for questions on other offerings such as tent camping, visit DBbarD.com.

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