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Training Photos FAQ

Hiking Tips & Plan

During most every training and on many calls, team members encounter hikers who are 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 a broken ankle, and then consider how valuable the following items could be on your next hike!

What to Pack

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!

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 the above hiking plan, which significantly assists search and rescue efforts and acts as a reminder of what to take on your hike. Historically, the Sheriff's Office has been responsible for search and rescue operations within the county. One of the most significant 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. A completed hiking plan 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 walking from, and where they intended to go. The hiking plan would also act as a checklist 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 mean 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. The hiking plan will assist searchers not only with where to search but might also indicate where the parties could have taken a wrong turn during their hike.

The Hiking Plan will be made available to hiking stores, sporting goods stores, U.S. Forest Service offices, and various websites. 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

During Your Outing

What to do When You Need Help

Recognizing Poison Oak

If you've spent time in the backcountry, there's an excellent chance you've had an experience with poison oak. If not - 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 feet 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 contain some surfactant to break it up and wash it away. Everyone reacts differently, so try as many treatments as you need 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, in extreme cases, consider consulting a physician.

View the Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center's Website