Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

How Not To Die Outdoors

Learn And Shop For Safety's Sake

Common sense, awareness classes, safety products can all ensure that you enjoy the outdoors and avoid accidents.

By Guest Editor Margie Anderson

Nobody likes to think about death, especially when you are planning a fun trip to the beautiful Arizona outdoors. But, the fact is, people do die outdoors. That's the bad news, but the good news is that you can go a long way toward preventing that from happening to you or those you love.

Boating

Boating in Arizona is awesome - we have a number of very beautiful lakes and many of them are close to major cities so a lot of people have access to them. Trouble is, "a lot of people" can mean "a lot of boaters" who don't really know what they are doing. Don't be one of those - you can take a boating-safety course, even online, for free and learn the rules of the road. Here are some to start you out:

1. Don't drink and boat. Period.

2. Wear a PFD (life jacket). Children 12 and under are required to wear a PFD at all times on a boat, and you must have one for each person on board. If your boat is 16 feet or over, you need a throwable flotation device as well. You may think you don't need to wear a life jacket because you are a good swimmer, but if you get thrown out of a boat, you could be knocked unconscious or you could have an automatic gasp reflex and inhale water. In cold water, you could lose the ability to move.

3. Understand traffic patterns on the water. Boat traffic in general should move counter clockwise. When crossing paths with another vessel, the boat on the right has the right of way.

4. Don't hang around the back of a boat when the motor is running. Carbon monoxide kills, and you won't even know it is there.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department says that boaters who have completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrator (NASBLA)-approved course certified by the state in which they reside are 70 percent less likely to be involved in a boating accident. That's a good thing! For information on these classes in Arizona, see page 3 of this issue or call (623) 236-7235 or toll free (800) 824-2456.

Hiking

I don't know about you, but for me, the whole purpose of hiking is to get away - from the city, and from other people. But getting away also means that you are getting away from help, so you need to be prepared to take care of yourself.

Plan Ahead

A lot of this is preparation. Plan your trip and make sure you have a good map and know what the trail involves. There are plenty of excellent Web sites and books that give information such as how difficult the trail is, how much uphill hiking is involved, etc.

Don't overestimate your abilities. If you are taking other people with you, plan the hike based on the abilities of the weakest member.

Don't Overload Yourself

Hiking should be fun, so don't overload yourself with gear, especially for a short day hike. Of course, you should have plenty of water with you, as well as some food to fuel your hike, but those two things should be the heaviest things in your pack. A small survival kit and first aid kit are also good to have.

Take a break every half hour or so. A five-minute or so break can help get rid of the waste products built up in your legs from hiking. Plus, sitting down for a few minutes and just being quiet really increases your chances of seeing wildlife, and lets you appreciate the beauty of the Arizona outdoors. Isn't that the reason you're out there in the first place?

Safe Kids

If you take your kids outdoors, you have to be extra vigilant with them. Kids get distracted and can wander off and get out of sight quickly. If this happens, they could panic and start running around and yelling, ending up more and more lost. (And yes, I know this from experience!)

You can't "lost-proof" your little ones, but you can and should make sure that they are properly equipped and they know what to do if they get lost. A child who has been prepared is less likely to panic in a pinch, and how a lost child behaves has a lot to do with how soon he or she gets found.

Kid's Survival Kit

A kid-sized fanny pack or mini backpack makes a great survival kit. Let your kid help you put the things in it, and explain what each is for as you load the pack. Even very small kids can wear a little fanny pack, and it's never too early to start teaching your little Daniel Boone how to survive bewilderment.

One of the first items to go into the bag should be a blaze-orange vest or a very bright bandana. Explain to the child that if he gets lost, he should immediately put the vest on, or tie the bandana to a stick and carry it like a flag. Tell him you'll be looking for him right away, and the vest will make him much easier to see. In cold weather, you can include a bright knitted cap.

A really loud whistle is the next thing to go into the pack. Shouting will only wear out a kid and make her thirsty. Let her try the whistle, and tell her that if she gets lost, she should sit out in the open in her orange vest and blow the whistle three times. Young ones should keep tooting on the whistle three times every now and then so people can home in on them.

You don't want your kid's survival kit to be so heavy that he hates to wear it, but he really should have at least a small bottle of water along, especially if you are hiking. Besides the whistle, water, and something highly visible to wear, you can include a few items to make him feel more comfortable while he waits to be found.

Some More Things To Include

An emergency blanket is a good thing to have in any survival kit, since it is very small and light. These "space blankets" reflect about 80 percent of body heat, and can keep your child warm and dry even if she has to spend a night lost. In addition to the blanket, a light stick or a wind-up emergency light will comfort a child who is alone in the dark.

Add an energy bar or granola bar, some tissues, and an adhesive bandage or two so your little outdoorsman will be ready for anything. As you load the survival kit, make sure you don't scare the kid. Emphasize that the survival kit is just something that a good outdoorsman always carries, and tell him or her that most likely he or she will never need to use it. Leave a compartment empty for the kid to store any treasures he or she finds.

As Kids Get Older

As your child gets older, you can start adding things to the survival kit. Teach him to use a map and compass and include those. Let him start to add things to it on his own, as long as it doesn't get unwieldy. Older kids can be trusted to carry fire-making tools, fish hooks and line, etc.

You might be tempted to simply hand the kids a GPS and a cell phone or walkie-talkie, but it's not a good idea to rely on anything that requires satellites or batteries. Stick to the old-fashioned basics, and remember that the most important survival tools children have are inside their heads. It's up to you to make sure they're prepared, not scared.

The Bottom Line

Preparing ahead, using common sense, taking awareness classes, adding some safety products to your outdoor gear can all ensure that you enjoy the outdoors and avoid accidents - quite possibly, a tragic one.

 

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