State forest rangers go on a search for roughly 200 people who get lost in the woods every year. But this year, about 30 children may be easier to find if they get lost at all.
The New York Power Authority hosted a course Monday aimed at preparing youths for their adventures and making sure they have the right knowledge and gear that could save their lives if they find themselves alone in the wilderness.
Often, people head out without even considering the chance they could get lost, state parks worker Nola DalGallo told a classroom of children ages 8 to 10 at the Blenheim-Gilboa Visitor Center.
All of the children said they like to hike and walk. Many of them raised their hands when asked if they’ve been lost before, and a couple said it even happened in the grocery store.
DalGallo said one important thing to remember is the large response generated when a child gets lost — there’s often going to be dozens of people searching, so it’s important kids don’t just panic and run off.
Staying in place is the best option, DalGallo said.
“If you keep moving around, you may miss the searchers and they might miss you,” she said.
The youth were told to find a large tree, preferably near a clearing, and wait.
The group watched a short video about a boy who went on a picnic with his parents. He decided to take a walk while his mom was making lunch and before long, he had no idea where he was.
The boy didn’t look around him when he was exploring. If he did, he might have noticed a small mountaintop he could have used as a landmark to find his way back.
After a fruitless search, the parents called authorities and a search and rescue team showed up the next morning.
That meant the boy had to sleep outside that evening, but he was able to stay safe by finding a tree and staying with it. He had a large garbage bag with him, which he fashioned into a poncho by poking a hole in the front and draping it over himself.
The ground saps warmth out of the body, so the boy gathered some grass clippings and dry leaves to sit on, helping to retain his heat.
One of the things that helped rescuers spot the boy was the fact that he was wearing a bright-colored shirt.
Mine Kill State Park Manger John Lowe said he had a scary experience a few years back. He was out with his family in the Adirondack mountains when they discussed plans to walk around a mountainside lake.
His 10-year-old son decided to start the hike on his own, and he was gone for about 45 minutes before they found him, Lowe said.
“He never knew he was lost,” Lowe said.
Alma Prior, of Stamford, brought her 10-year-old son to the course because he loves spending time in the woods.
“It’s just good knowledge to have. You never know,” Prior said.
Staff from the state parks office and Mine Kill State Park assembled a small “lost in the woods” safety pack for children to bring home with them.
Parents wishing to put one together for their children can likely find many of these items in their home:
- Plastic freezer bag, for storing the kit and gathering drinking water, if necessary, from a stream.
- Snack bar as a survival food. Preferably with a shiny wrapper — it can double as a signal for rescuers.
- Plastic garbage bag, to use as an emergency shelter. A bright-colored bag is preferable, also for visibility.
- Reflector — aluminum foil wrapped around a square piece of cardboard can be used to signal rescuers by reflecting sunlight. Tied to a string, it can be hung from a tree.
- A whistle — the simple device can be heard at a far greater distance than a human voice.