Children and their families love to explore the great outdoors by hiking, camping, biking and more. Sometimes curiosity draws kids away from family and friends and they strike off on a mini adventure. They might not think about who knows where they are, what time of day it is or what the weather is doing. When they realize familiar faces are no longer there, they can quickly become disoriented, frightened and start heading in the wrong direction. The scariest moment of your life as a parent is likely when your child goes missing.
The Hug-a-Tree and Survive program was designed to help children who become lost in the woods to stay safe and survive. It was created out of sad circumstances, the search for Jimmy Beveridge in the USA in 1981, and was adapted and introduced in Canada by the RCMP. Hug-A-Tree and Survive is provided through AdventureSmart* and is taught by Search and Rescue volunteers to help prevent similar incidents from occurring. To help you educate your children now though, here are the four main Hug-a-Tree Rules (from the adventuresmart.ca website):
- Tell an adult where you are going.
- Always tell your parents, or another trusted adult where you are going, who you are going with, and when you will be back. You can do this in person, over the phone, through a text message, or by leaving a note in a place they will see it.
- If you are lost, “Hug-A-Tree” and stay put.
- A tree can help protect you from the elements while you’re outdoors, and most importantly, keep you in one place. Depending on where you are, there may not always be a tree. Perhaps your “tree” can be a large rock or bench at a park, or a sales counter at a mall. No matter what your landmark is, it is important to stay put, in order to stay safe.
- Keep warm and dry.
- Temperatures change throughout the day, and can drop at night. Even if you are warm during the day, keep your jacket handy for night time. If you get cold, put on an extra layer, pull up your hood or put on your hat if you have one, tuck your shirt in, tuck pant legs into your socks, and zip up your jacket. You can also keep warm by building a nest to keep you off the ground, or by using an emergency shelter.
- Help searchers find you by answering their calls.
- Whether searchers are parents, police officers, or SAR volunteers, remember they just want to get you home safely. Answer back to their calls by making noise and signaling, so you can be heard and seen. Make sure to leave lots of footprints and clues, so searchers can follow your tracks to find you.
Thanks to AdventureSmart for the work they do to help keep all members of the outdoor community safe, no matter what their age, and for all the volunteers throughout the province who help teach these important and potentially life-saving programs. Thanks to CSAR member and AdventureSmart presenter Tim for his help on putting this piece together!
*AdventureSmart is a national program dedicated to encouraging Canadians and visitors to Canada to “Get informed and go outdoors”. combines online and on-site awareness with targeted outreach to try and reduce the number and severity of Search and Rescue Incidents.