Ventura County Search & Rescue, Fillmore Mountain Rescue Team 1
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Hiking Tips & Plan

During most every training and on many calls, team members encounter hikers ill-prepared for a wilderness emergency. The beautiful, moderate climate of Ventura County does not seem dangerous, but a hiker with a quart of water, wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt is a recipe for disaster. Consider how far a mile really is when you have a sprained knee or broken ankle, and then consider how valuable the following items could be on your next hike!

What to Pack:

• water (1 quart per hour) • fire starter
• food • waterproof matches
• map and compass • whistle
• knife • cell phone
• flashlight • extra clothes (Not cotton!!!)
eft with a friend or in your car
• sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen

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Have a Hiking Plan

Most hikers don't intend to need emergency help, but accidents do happen. If for some unfortunate reason you become lost or injured during your hike, how long would you like to wait for help? Hours? Days? Weeks?

Help us find you...Faster! 

Fill-out this Hiking Plan and give it to someone who will be responsible for contacting the Sheriff's Office if you do not return from your outing.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office's Search and Rescue Coordinators have initiated a "Hiking Plan", which greatly assists search and rescue efforts and acts as a reminder of what to take on your hike. Historically, the Sheriff's Office has been tasked with search and rescue responsibilities within the county. One of the greatest challenges facing Search and Rescue teams is where to start searching. This "Hiking Plan" will provide responding search teams and helicopters with a more specific area to target. This could save precious time during the initial phase of a search, which could prove to be critical to the missing parties.

A common problem is when a spouse, child, or friend doesn't return home from a hiking trip as planned, and the reporting party can't remember where they said they intended to hike. The "Hiking Plan" would be filled out by the hiking party, listing who was going, where they intended to start hiking from, and where they intended to hike to. The "Hiking Plan" would also act as a check list of what to take on a hiking trip.

Another critical problem is that people forget what day or time the hikers intended to return. Several times a year, we search for people who didn't intend to return until the following day, wasting Search and Rescue resources and embarrassing both the reporting party and the hikers. The "Hiking Plan" would act as an easy reference guide to the person most likely to report the hikers overdue.

A vital part of the "Hiking Plan" is the sketch or map of your travel plans. This will assist searchers, not only where to search, but also might indicate where the parties might have taken a wrong turn during their hike.

The "Hiking Plan" will be made available in hiking stores, sporting good stores, U.S. Forest Service offices, and at various web-sites. The form should be filled out completely and left with the person most likely to report you missing in the event of a problem. If you are unable to leave it with a responsible party, you should place a copy in your car at the trailhead where you begin hiking.

Have a Safe & Fun Outing!

Prior to your outing:
• Tell someone where you will be hiking and when you expect to return.
• Know the name of the park and/or trail you will be hiking on. Having a trail map is recommended.
• Know where you are going and know what kind of terrain you will be hiking on.  Hikers can encounter rocky terrain, rattlesnakes and other potential hazards in our area.
• Have the essentials - listed above.

During your outing:

• Don’t hike alone - it’s safer and more fun to do the trail with a friend.
• Know your limitations. Don’t do more than you are able.
• Have the essentials - listed above.
• Remember Trail Etiquette - Always stay on a designated trail.
• Learn to share the trails with all other users. In general, bike riders yield to both hikers and horseback riders; hikers yield to horseback riders. However, for all trail users, downhill yields to uphill.
• Use common sense and courtesy while on the trails. Announce your intentions and slow your pace when passing someone on the trails.
• Do not litter.
• Do not chase or harass wildlife.
• Keep your pets safe:
• Pets can be curious about unusual animals and burrows in which they live. It is not uncommon for a dog to be bitten on the nose by a rattlesnake or to have a small animal snatched up by a hungry coyote.
• Dogs can easily become overheated due to their difficulty in dissipating heat. It is recommended to hike with your pet during the cooler times of the day.
• Bring water for your pet.
• For the health, safety and welfare of all park users, pet owners must immediately remove and properly dispose of waste left by pets in a secured plastic bag and place in solid waste container.
What to do When You Need Help:
• S.T.O.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan). Your brain is your #1 survival tool.
• If you are lost or injured, do not panic.
• Instruct your children to HUG A TREE when lost or scared.
• If you need help, notify a Park Ranger or for emergencies call 9-1-1.
• Know your location. Look for the nearest trail marker or any noticeable landmark such as a bench, wash or tree.
• Identify the emergency situation (Be specific regarding the condition of an injured person).


Recognizing Poison Oak

If you've spent time in backcountry, there's an excellent chance you've had a Poison Oak experience. If not, well, it's probably a matter of time. Nearly every Search and Rescue member is quite familiar with poison oak. 

Poison oak is a woody shrub that is related to poison ivy and poison sumac. It is plentiful below 4,000' and is generally identified by its oily leaves in groups of three. The leaves can be green, yellow, or red and fall off each year. The leaves and stems contain an oil (Urushiol) that causes an itchy rash in 85% of the population. It's powerful stuff - 1/4 ounce would give a rash to every person on earth and the oil can remain active for up to five years.

Since the oil is the nasty part of the plant, most of the remedies include some surfactant to break up the oil and wash it away. Everyone reacts differently, so try as many remedies as you need to until you find one that works. The important thing is that you wash your gear and clothes so you don't expose yourself again the next time you use them. There are many over-the-counter treatments, but for extreme cases, consider consulting a physician.


Other Hiking Resources

Knot Tying Guide - Special Thanks to Irish Climbing Online
Animated Knots - Excellent Tool for Learning Knots
National Cave Rescue Instructor Guide

Ventura County Sheriff's Volunteer Search & Rescue  |  Fillmore Mountain Rescue  |  Team 1
Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 296 |  Fillmore, CA  93016
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© 2005 Ventura County Sheriff's Volunteer Search & Rescue, Fillmore Mountain Rescue, Team 1