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CHILD LOST IN THE WOODS! - How to be safe in the wilderness

Updated on April 21, 2010

Volunteers spend about an hour tutoring kids on wilderness safety.

Students are introduced to a search dog during this presentation.

Students learn to improvise an emergency shelter from a trash bag.

Kids should never leave an adult's sight in the wilderness.

A Kid's Kit can save a child's life.

Few thoughts chill the blood of a parent more than learning their child is missing. As warmer weather lures families outdoors for picnics, hiking and camping the odds of a child becoming lost in the wilderness increase.

That's why volunteers with the Jackson County Sheriff's Search and Rescue in Southern Oregon have created a quick and simple program to teach children of all ages what to do if they become lost in the woods.

The Lost But Found Program of Jackson County, Oregon teaches youngsters how ordinary household objects like plastic garbage bags and tin foil can be used as survival tools. "Even an old CD can signal an aircraft from a tremendous distance," says Skip Snyder of the Rogue Valley Search and Rescue. As program coordinator of Lost But Found, he and other search and rescue volunteers share the presentation with thousands of school children each year. "If we can save one child it's well worth the effort," Snyder says.

Hundreds of children each year wind up becoming lost after wandering from designated trails or simply running too far ahead of others. Some become confused because they weren't paying attention, or their curiosity got the best of them and suddenly they've become separated from others.

More importantly, Snyder adds, once a child realizes they're suddenly alone in the woods panic takes over and "the first thing they'll do is run", going further into the wilderness and farther away from help. The Lost But Found motto is Stay In One Place. If a child has been taught to sit down where they are and wait to be found chances are their adult supervision will find them before having to call 911.

When search and rescue is deployed on a search mission several factors, including amount of time a subject has been lost, age and health of subject, type of terrain and weather, help search managers determine a containment area, or high probability area where the lost subject would be and where they can immediately send search teams. A lost subject who keeps walking can walk out of containment area boundaries and "what could have been a four hour search turns into four days or more."

Lost But Found teaches children to stop, sit and wait for help to arrive. "It makes our job as searchers so much easier if (the subjects) simply sit and stay in one place," says Snyder. "I think it's as important as teaching kids to look both ways before crossing the road."

By learning to wait for help and organizing and wearing a small fanny pack, known as a Kid's Kit containing basic survival/rescue tools like a whistle, a shelter such as a garbage bag or emergency blanket and a type of reflector, chances for a successful rescue increase. "It could mean the difference between surviving a night or perishing," advises Snyder, adding parents could accustom a child to wearing the fanny pack from an early age, making it as important as buckling a safety belt every time they get in a vehicle.


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      Victoria 6 years ago

      Thank you very much. I am a volunteer organization, "Search for missing children," which brings together volunteers in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. We are often confronted with the fact that the children lost in the woods continue to move forward and as a result of dying, or drown in the rivers.

    • Cathy profile image

      Cathy 10 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Thank you! And yes, adults too. I love it when parents sit in on the presentations

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      Woodwose 10 years ago

      This goes for adults too... citing the Kim search in Oregon... and the recent search for that College Professor that apparently thought it couldn't happen to him, walked into the wilderness outside of Eugene? or Salem? and I haven't heard that they found his body yet. Good article.