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Preparing for an emergency can help hikers

Posted by in Travel on Thursday, May 8, 2014

Brendan Clark and Jamie Waine at the top of Bull Creek Hill, before she was injured. (Photo: Courtesy of Brendan Clark)

Reaching the top of a lookout, snow-capped mountains surrounding her, Jamie Waine listened to the whispers of the wind and the soft chirp of a tiny mountain bird.

And then her ankle snapped.

On March 15, 2014, Waine began her trek down Bull Creek Hill in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country when she tripped over slippery rocks. After trying to hop down for about 20 metres, she realized it was no use — her ankle was broken. She was with her boyfriend, dad and other hikers, and they were four kilometres from the bottom, with the sunset fast approaching.

Jamie and Brendan's feet as they were waiting for help. Fellow hikers provided many emergency blankets and hand warmers to keep them warm as they waited for rescue. (Photo: Courtesy of Brendan Clark)

Luckily, her boyfriend Brendan Clark was equipped with a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, a handheld device to let people know if you need assistance. Clark used it to signal for help and send GPS location coordinates to a search and rescue team.

“This is the first time we had to use it for an emergency,” Waine says. “I’m so glad we had it when I was too injured to walk.”

This week, which is Emergency Preparedness Week, is the time of year when Canadians start planning their summers and marking their hiking routes. No one enjoys thinking about something going wrong during a perfect summer day, but the possibility is always there and being prepared is key.

SPOT products also marked its 3,000th rescue around the world this week since the technology’s launch in 2007, with approximately one-third of these rescues occurring in Canada. Whether the hike is a couple hours or a couple days, this device is worth bringing along, according to volunteer member of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association Dave Taylor.

“Depending on your environment and the expectation of running into a problem, it’s a useful thing to have when you have no other means of communication,” Taylor says.

But being prepared doesn’t just mean having a SPOT device in your backpack.

“This should be a last resort for an emergency,” Taylor says. “You still have to be able to survive and take care of yourself. Rescue can still take a long time.”

It definitely did for Waine.

The extra food and warmer clothes she lugged on her back came in handy during the four hours it took for the search and rescue team to reach the group. Waine says it also helps to check the weather and map out your routes before leaving.

After this unexpected event, Waine is now a big fan of these SPOT devices and recommends them to any outdoor adventurer.

“You never know when you’re going to need it.”

  Comments (1)

I am the mother of Jamie's boyfriend Brendan and the wife of his father who was with them, so I know every detail of this incident. Jamie didn't fall because she wasn't paying attention; she was properly equipped but was hiking in difficult conditions and dangerous terrain when she accidentally slipped on loose rocks.

The real heroes of this story are Brendan who had the good sense to ask for the SPOT device for Christmas and also kept Jamie warm while they waited for help, his Dad, Remco and Melinda who were in the hiking group and climbed down and back up after Jamie was injured, as well as Conservation officers and the volunteers of the Foothills Search and Rescue Society who left their pot-luck dinner to climb up to Jamie and bring her down on a stretcher in the dark to a waiting ambulance. The RCMP was extremely kind and helpful in keeping worried family members informed. The SPOT device was an invaluable tool that enabled Brendan to send an emergency call in an area where cell phones don't work and also enabled Foothills Search and Rescue to pinpoint their location. Anyone who hikes needs a SPOT device. They're not expensive and can save lives.

Submitted by Valerie Clark on Saturday, May 10, 2014

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