True North Blog

Let’s Not Forget the Rescuers

Yesterday marked the end of a rescue story in Southern California that gripped much of the nation this week.  In Cleveland National Forest, which boasts 720 miles of rugged mountain wilderness, two young adults parked their vehicle on Sunday at a trailhead not more than a handful of miles from suburban housing tracts, shopping malls, and a Starbucks.  While the details have yet to fully emerge, it looks like the pair set off for a day hike without proper equipment or clothing, including water, and then, at some point soon after their start, ventured off the well blazed trails to try to get a better view of the area’s waterfalls.  They soon, though, became lost and then, somehow, became separated.  As a Sheriff’s spokesman stated to the Associated Press, “I have no doubt that they came out here with the best of intentions … but this is a complicated environment and before you know it, you’re lost.  It’s just as dangerous today out here as it was on Sunday afternoon.”  He added that having civilization so close can lull some hikers into a false sense of security.  This, too, seems to lull all of us into forgetting the risks to limb and life that we subject the rescuers who we expect will help us when we need it.

While the outcome of this story had a happy and thrilling ending — replete with dramatic video footage of a helicopter plucking one of the victims off the side of a cliff — we do not fully appreciate that the terrain and conditions there were almost as dangerous for the rescuers as it was for the victims.  In fact, a Sheriff’s Deputy suffered a head injury during the search when he fell 60 feet down a canyon.

River TechThis week alone — in fact, at almost the same time that the search for these two young adults began — many other search and rescue operations began around the country and, sadly, several rescuers were injured, even killed, during them.  The Bowling Green Daily News reported that a river rescue technician was injured while attempting to help two teens who had capsized their boat while fishing.  Later, the Associated Press reported that the flight crew of an Alaska State Police rescue helicopter where killed, including the victim, following a rescue.

Whether we are outdoors under a sun filled sky enjoying the trees and mountains around us, or we are a member of a search-and-rescue crew looking for someone who has gotten lost, it’s not that we don’t want to accept risk.  After all, taking risks is part of living and makes Life a lot more sweet.  However, taking silly risks, or blindly ignoring big risks, that can easily kill us — and those we expect to come help us — is irresponsible to put it mildly.

We shouldn’t view the Great Outdoors like an amusement park, and we should be careful to treat Mother Nature with the respect that she deserves.  Making even basic preparations and acquiring basic skills, then, before we even set outside helps us to not only better handle a problem that develops, but, better yet, avoid it altogether.  If we aren’t willing to take such precautions for ourselves, let’s at least do it for our loved ones and, of course, for the rescuers who may be called upon to help us … and their loved ones.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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