Fort Collins Coloradoan - Xplore - May 4, 2003 by Miles Blumhardt

Staying Found - Miles Blumhardt Coloradoan staff Fort Collins Coloradoan - Got lost? Get found Survival in the wilderness depends on how well you're prepared By Miles Blumhardt and Kirk Alberts. Includes essentials, gear, tips, reasons, Q&A with Don Davis, search and rescue manager for Larimer County Search and Rescue

Q&A with Don Davis

Don Davis is the search and rescue manager for Larimer County Search and Rescue (LCSAR), a member of LCSAR for 19 years and is the lead instructor for the Loveland-based Wilderness Institute of Survival Education's map and compass program.

Q: How many missions does LCSAR conduct each year?

A: We average 70 missions per year, running the gamut from getting the initial call and 5 minutes later the person shows up late to actually getting out in the field for multiple days, which is rare.

Q: What's the busiest time of the year?

A: Mid-May through the end of hunting season (November).

Q: What is the average length of time it takes to find a person in Larimer County?

A: From the time we get the call to the time we find the person, it's usually within 12 hours. That's pretty much true throughout Colorado.

Q: What does that tell people if you get to them on average in 12 hours?

A: Even if you are only going out for a one-hour hike, you need to be prepared to spend the night. Be prepared for a minimum of 24 hours.

Q: What's the best clue someone can give you once a search is initiated?

A: If people don't tell someone where they are going there is no search. Where would we look? Fortunately, most people tell someone where they are going and when they expect to arrive. It also helps when people sign trail registers. The more clues you leave behind, the easier it is to find you.

Q: Why is the best advice to just stay put once you realize you are lost?

A: Two studies done 10 years apart based on actual search and rescue missions found that the majority of people were found within 1 mile of the last point where they were seen. That's why we tell people to stay put. If you didn't tell someone where you are going, the advice to stay put doesn't hold up. Then you have to do something for yourself to get out of the predicament because we don't know where to start our search.

Q: What are a person's priorities once you become lost?

A: Building a shelter to protect yourself from wind and rain from something like a tarp is first. Next is fire, which helps in many ways. Next is to be where you are psychologically. That is, forget about everything else and concentrate on the here and now. Next is water. You can only survive about three days without water. Signaling with a whistle, mirror or flashlight is next. And last is food.

Q: What are the keys to weathering being lost?

A: It takes three things: positive mental attitude, equipment and skill to use them, and knowledge. Positive mental attitude is 80 percent, equipment is 10 percent and knowledge is 10 percent.

Q: What are the main reasons why people get in trouble in the outdoors?

A: Not taking a survival kit is the big one. Taking a short cut is another. There is no such thing as a short cut. Another one is not taking a map and compass and knowing how to use it. Another big problem is groups that get separated. They need to stay within talking distance of each other.

Q: What kills people most often?

A: Hypothermia is a big one. The danger zone for hypothermia is 30 degrees to 50 degrees. When it's below freezing, people get dressed for the elements. When it's 45 degrees or 50 degrees and nice, and it's sunny and there is no wind, it feels warm and people don't dress appropriately.

Q: What do you think happened to Jaryd Atadero, the 3-year-old boy who disappeared on the Big South Trail in October 1999 and has never been found?

A: I feel he either fell into the river and drowned or an animal, most likely a mountain lion, got him.

Q: What would be your advice for adults taking children outdoors?

A: I'd have that little kid right next to me so I could touch them. Don't let them run out of sight. When I see parents with a leash on their kids at places like Disneyland, I say "all right." It's not being cruel, it's the right thing to do.

Q: What are the mind games that play with people who are lost?

A: We call them the enemies of survival. The big one is fear. When you are lost and alone, that fear starts to well up. Panic, cold, heat, hunger, thirst, pain, fatigue, boredom and loneliness are other enemies.

Q: How do you get those head games under control?

A: If you are prepared, it gives you a better attitude, that positive mental attitude.

Q: What's a person's worst enemy if becoming lost in summer in the mountains near Fort Collins?

A: Temperature. Once the sun goes down in summer, it drops below 50 degrees and the hypothermia thing starts up. If you don't have proper clothing or the ability to make a fire and you get stranded, hypothermia can be a problem.

Q: What's the best advice you can give people to stay found this summer?

A: Take a wilderness survival course. You will gain the skill and knowledge to help you survive until help arrives.

Fort Collins Coloradoan - Xplore - May 4, 2003 by Miles Blumhardt