Introduction | Contacts | Hazards | Evacuation Plan | Checklist | Rick Curtis on Safety Management (Private site for Leaders)


The key to safety management is planning. If you wait until an accident happens to make a plan, you're already too late. Rather than react you need to anticipate. During an emergency you will be under stress and will probably not be thinking as clearly as you would otherwise, and, depending on the nature of the situation, you may not have much time to think. If you make a plan before the emergency, you will be able to consider your options objectively, removed from the stress of the moment. And you will not be rushed. Under these conditions you're not only much more likely to make the correct decisions but you'll make those decisions faster, which in a medical emergency could be important.

Each day on the trail or on the water, in the city, or in the mountains you want to know where you will go and what you will do should an emergency arise. Your attitude should be: Today is a good day for an accident to happen. You do not want an emergency to arise, but if one does, you'll be prepared.

Safety Management Plan
Filling out the safety management plan form is a good start. There are forms on the extranet. Not only does the form allow you to document your plan so that you can leave it behind with your subcommittee chair, but in filling out the document you will have the chance to think through your plan in advance of an emergency scenario. The form will ask you to write out your nearest points of contact and your pre-trip evacuation plan. And rather than having the necessary phone numbers and ranger station locations on different chits of paper floating around in your backpack, you'll have all the necessary information in one place.

You'll want to share this information with your assistant leader--especially for the Knapsack subcommittee, where assistant leaders are often responsible for leading the injured or ill back to the trailhead.

There are archives of several years worth of plans on the above page you can use for examples.

Contact numbers - Communications:
Contacts serves two basic purposes:
  • How you can contact emergency services.
    - If you will be in cell phone range you should use 911.
      You should have a map showing where cell phone service works for your service provider. - Starting in 2005 the FCC required 911 services for all satellite phone providers.

    Other Electronic Device:
    - A personal locator beacon such as a SPOT is useful also. They send your GPS coordinates to a central dispatch station via satellite and they contact the appropriate emergency response agency.
    - Some wilderness guides have amateur radio licenses which can transmit thru remote repeaters on mountain tops to other radio operators who monitor the repeaters.

    Closest public agency you can walk or drive to if you don't have phone service.

  • How others can contact you or participants. - How can friends or family members contact you to check on your welfare or reach you in case of an emergency.

    This is basically the reverse of the above.
    Mobil phone numbers for you and other leaders on the trip.
    Your SatPhone number
    Licence plate numbers for vehicles which may be parked at the trailhead.
    Your expected route and location on any given day.

The standard form has these sections for contacts:
Land Use and Agency
Location Name
Tahoe NF
Management Agency
Agency Contact Person
Peter Lehmkuhl, CTL
(530) 426-3632
(530) 414-1364 (after hrs.)
Agency Location
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA
Agency Phone
(530) 265-4531
Hours Ranger Station or Outpost Facility Information
Truckee Ranger District
10811 Stockrest Springs Road, Truckee,
Mary Wstmorland, NFS,
(530) 587-3558

Medical Facilities
Ed. Note: I think the closest trauma center should be listed also. They will have more specialists on duty for serious problems.

Additional Emergency Contacts Standard From has Sheriff | Police | EMS or Fire Department
These can be modified depending on the trip. Ex.
Inyo Co. Sheriff | Fresno Co. Sheriff | Outfitter
Sheriff Sheriff Sheriff
Name Nevada Co Sheriff Placer Co Sheriff El Dorado Co. Sheriff
Address 10879 Donner Pass Road,
2501 N. Lake Blvd.,
Tahoe City
1360 Johnson Blvd.,
S. Lake Tahoe
Phone * 530 265-7880 530 823-4411 (530) 544-3464
* Phone numbers should be 24x7 dispatch numbers not the administrative offices.
In the Sierra Nevada the Sheriff is uaually the central dispatch for 911 calls and can contact other agencies as appropriate. These numbers would only be used only if 911 did not work.


Known Hazards/ Expected Counter Measures:

Some examples from Trip #10254A
What are the dangers or potential hazards specific to this trip that you need to avoid and/or prepare yourself and your group members for?
Potential Hazard Leader steps to prevent problems:

- Tripping, falling, sprains and strains when hiking and crossing streams.

  1. Advise participants to hike carefully and to use walking sticks if they have them.
  2. Encourage participants to be in good physical condition for the hikes.
  3. Encourage trip members to use walking sticks on the trip.
  4. Discuss in pre trip bulletins and in daily briefings the importance of paying attention to foot placement, allowing space between participants and heeding leaders/ guides directions for the route.
Linda's Safety rules:
  • Sign out - where going, who with, when back (no later than 4:00)
  • Alone - within yelling distance -(around lake, up ridge)
  • If not within yelling distance. 4 in group. (one stay with injured, 2 go for help)
- Sunburn, dehydration, hypothermia from cold temperatures/rain during hikes. Advise participants to use sun protection (screen and wide brim hats).
  • Advise participants to drink adequate water and start drinking 2 quarts per day starting two days before the outing.
    See Hydration
  • Advise participants to tell you when they are out of water.
  • Have participants carry rain protection and warm clothing.
  • See hypothermia - Participant getting lost.
    1. Leader will be at front and have a sweep at rear of group during hikes.
    2. Leader will continually keep track of participants.
    3. Leader will not allow participants to hike alone.
    4. Leader will instruct participants on procedure if trip member needs to leave the trail for a nature call.
    5. Advise participants to remain where they are if separated from the group.
    6. Advise participants that in Spring/Summer/Fall searches will not be conducted at night and participant should be prepared to hunker down for the night.
    - Blisters (see blisters.)
    • Ensure participants have well broken in boots. They should have hiked on similar or simulated similar terrain.
    • Have participants use proper boot lacing.
      See boots
    • Urge trip members to report hot spots before they become blisters.
    - Ticks (see ticks)
      CDC Protection guidelines
     - Avoid areas with a lot of ticks (wooded and bushy areas with high grass and
        and a lot of leaf litter.
     - Walk in the center of the trail
     - Use insect repellent with 20% - 30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
     - Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep ticks off your skin.
        Light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily.
        Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and  shirts into pants 
      - Perform daily tick checks after being outdoors
    - Bee Stings (see EpiPen)
    - Altitude sickness/ conditioning, hydration, gradual adjustment to altitude. (see AMS)
    - Ingested pathogens (The Giardia parasite is the number one problem,
    but cryptosporidium parasites and bacteria can also be present. See Traveler's diarrhea
     Camp/cooking crew cleanliness/wash hands with soap, wash all utensils
        in hot water with soap & rinse twice. 
     Water quality/provide water purification guidance, 4% iodine & Micro Pur tablets. 
    - Burns / Only leaders should ignite stoves
          Proper pot handling
    - Over exertion/Heat exhaustion group pacing by Leader on the trail, regular rests, breaks. 
    - Lack of hydration/ hydration encouragements by Leaders. 
    - Slips & falls/ route selection, pace & Leader warning of hazardous area(s). 
    - Hiking in snow / Use hiking poles, waterproof boots, gaiters or snowshoes
       to avoid wet feet (trench foot).  
       Deep snow may obscure trail blazing or trail markers.
       If the snow is deep you will sink in (post-holing) which slows you down
       and makes the trail unpleasant and dangerous for the next hiker.
       On sloping firm or hard snow teach  how firmly kick in your steps and edge into
       the hill to provide a platform to hold your weight without slipping.
       See winter hiking for more.
    - Thunderstorms/lightning strikes/Leader/group awareness, take cover when necessary.
    - Bears/camp cleanliness, all food in bear-proof containers, in-camp & on-trail caution.
    - Mountain Lions See Mountain Lion Safety
    - Snakes -  See Snake Safety
    - Car accidents/be careful out there!

    Humphreys Basin Basecamp 2010

    Oregon Basecamp:
    Under Itinerary:
    "Six different day hikes - 3-8 miles in length - within 12 miles of camp to be determined on a daily bases influenced by groups' abilities-

    For Example:
      Ramona Falls Loop
      Twin Lakes
      Elk Meadow
      Salmon River Trail"
    See more about hazards from Rick Curtis below.
    Evacuation Plan
    Hiking Among The Hoodoos Bryce Canyon National Park Base Camp # 10082A
    Emergency/Evacuation Plan: Call 911, Contact Ranger at Bryce Canyon Visitor center

    09184A - Backpacking the Southwest Virginia High Country,
    Evacuation from this area will be through Grayson Highlands State Park. Park Headquarters is about 2 miles via AT and the Massie Gap trail.

    Wilderness Lakes and Yosemite 08277A
    Evacuation plan:
    If a participant is not able to hike out, a leader and a participant will hike back to TH and drive east on 108, 2 miles to the Dardanelle Resort or Brightman Ranger Station (open Wed. to Sun). They will call 911 as soon as a cell phone will work, or call from the resort or ranger station.

    Author's notes:
    I think an evacuation plan should have:
    A map with potential helicopter landing sites.

    Canyon Country Family Raft Trip on the San Juan River, 10210A:
    Should a member of your party have an injury or illness which requires medical attention, Contact with headquarters in GR or VR should be attempted. Use our SAT phone, a cell phone or radio (see Helicopter Evacuation and Radio sheets). Refer to the call down phone list inside the SAT phone case and or first aid kits - for phone numbers. If unable to contact someone on that list - dial 911. The NPS and BLM has requested that we use 911 dispatches to contact them. The dispatcher has the most current numbers for the NPS and BLM local authorities and can contact them to help in the event we need it.

    There are two options to consider for evacuations:

    When time is not a factor and the injury would not be further compounded by river or vehicle travel, evacuation by raft or van is usually the best.

    • Different locations, guides, time factors, available skilled help (doctors, nurses, etc), are all to be considered when deciding to split the group, boats, vehicles and/or guides. It's your call but have a complete plan.
    • Different locations require you to take patients to different areas. If possible communication with management (via SAT phone) should be initiated to help decide where to go. The following guidelines should be used:
    San Juan - Grand Junction, Price, or Cortez

    Should the injury or illness be very severe (life or death situation) and time is a definite factor, or when body movement during evacuation must be limited (i.e. severe head, neck, back, broken femur or pelvis, systemic blood infection, burns, etc.) evacuate via helicopter.

    • Use the SAT Phone and/or radios to try and make contact with Holiday headquarters in GR or VR, aircraft or park rangers. See helicopter evacuation and SAT phone and radio use sheets.
    • Spread PFD's out to form a large "X" that can be seen by aircraft. Have the signal mirrors in hand to attract any aircraft that may fly over.
    If unable to make contact with SAT phone, cell phone or radios, you may find people with vehicles or telephones at the following locations at or near the river for evacuation by vehicle or helicopter.

    San Juan

    • Sand Island to Mexican Hat: Probably the best means to get word out would be to row to Mexican Hat. If you elect to hike out, the following canyons can be exited: Butler, Comb Ridge, Comb Wash, Lime Creek, Soda Basin Road. Always hike out the right side of the river.
    • Mexican Hat to Clay Hills: There are several canyons that can be exited: Mendenhall Loop, Honaker Trail, Slickhorn, Grand Gulch, Steer and Whirlwind Gulches, Clay Hills. Always hike out the right side of the river.
    Remember this area is still very primitive and although there are several roads and trails in this area, they may not be used a lot.
    Some people also list Sierra Club Numbers:
    Outings Department 888-688-4647, 800-564-6861 (after hours)
    Tony Rango 415-977-5524 (work), (mobile)
    Safety Management Checklist: (At the bottom of the standard Safety management form)

    ☐ Does the proposed itinerary identify potential dangers and expected countermeasures?
    ☐ Participant Roster
    ☐ Signed Liability Waivers for each participant
    ☐ Two sets of Participant Medical Forms: one set for the leaders and a copy with each participant. Leaders should fill out medical forms for themselves as well. All forms should include emergency contact information.
    ☐ Patient Assessment Forms
    ☐ Copies of permits
    ☐ Group equipment list
    ☐ Communication device (whistles, cell phone, satellite phone, extra batteries, etc.)
    ☐ Emergency Response Card (from the outings leader handbook)

    In Outdoor Action Guide to Outdoor Safety Management, Rick Curtis says:
    Rule 1 for Emergency Management is to avoid emergencies:
    It is essential to teach the Dynamics of Accidents Formula at the very beginning of any trip (or prior to leaving campus) so that all participants are aware of how their behavior is directly related to reducing the possibility of accidents. Participants then can take some responsibility for their own safety. :
    Environmental Briefing:
    Brief participants on environmental hazards at the beginning of the trip and whenever the environment changes.

    It is important to analyze the possible accident potentials from a what if perspective. Ask yourself what is the worst case scenario. Then ask yourself what you can do to reduce the accident potential.

    In addition to accident reports (Accidents you can treat) and Emergency Report Forms (Accidents requiring outside medical assistance), Curtis recommends Field Information Reports whenever there is a "near miss" accident.

    Curtis' dynamics of accidents model in his Book The Backpacker's Field Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Backcountry Skills is slightly different than the model on his web site above.
    The more overlap there is between hazards, people, environment and equipment, the more chance of an accident.

    5 Dangerous Hiking Mistakes at
    By Lisa Hendy, Yosemite National Park emergency services program manager, and Todd Duncan, Sierra Club program safety manager.

    1. Underestimating the trail:
      Remember you're getting older. You can't run a 5K in 25 minutes or do 3,000 feet vertical with a 40 lb. pack in an afternoon any more. Especially at 8,000 ft. elevation.
    2. Failing to prepare:
      Carry food, clothing and emergency supplies for an overnight even on a day hike.
    3. Going alone:
    4. Traveling off-trail:
      You may have got away with it in the past but the law of averages will catch up with you. Remember Arron Ralston (Between a Rock and a Hard Place)
    5. Abandoning the plan:
      The plan should include turnaround times and conditions. You don't want to hike on unfamiliar trails after dark or when it starts to snow.
  • Human Factor Hazards


    - No awareness of hazards
    - No skills to avoid hazards
    - Resistence to instructions
    - Irresponsible/careless attitude towards self, others, equipment
    - Need to "prove" self, macho attitude
    - Poor physical strength, stamina
    - Fear, anxiety


    - Rocky trail
    - Exposed ledges
    - Cold temperatures
    - Rain
    - Darkness
    - Overexposure to sun
    - Poison ivy
    - Beestings


    - Bad road conditions
    - Darkness
    - Unfamiliar road
    - Difficult road
    - Other erratic drivers
    - Pedestrians/cyclists


    - Broken stove
    - Boots not broken in
    - Improper clothing
    - Inoperative equipment

    B) Leaders

    - Lack of knowledge of environmental hazards
    - Inadequate skills to extricate group and self from hazards
    - Poor safety judgement
    - Poor teacher of necessary skills
    - Instructions unclear
    - Poor supervisor, does not correct problems
    - Ineffectual under stress
    - Lack of teaching plan

    C) Drivers

    Carry the proper equipment. See the ten essentials.

    5 Dangerous Hiking Mistakes at
    Sierra Club Emergency Response Procedures ( Outdoor Action Guide to Outdoor Safety Management
    Sierra Nevada dangers
    Southern Sierra Nevada Contacts at
    Tahoe area contacts at

    last updated 5 July 2010