BONNERS FERRY — As the weather warms, many people shake off the winter doldrums by venturing into the great outdoors. With many options, from hiking to boating, luring people, it is a great time to consider safety gear and making sure to plan ahead for the coming adventures.
“Having essential gear is important,” said Boundary County Search and Dive Rescue Commander Tony Jeppesen. “You always want to make sure you match your gear with the environment you’ll be in.”
Choosing proper clothing is one of the most important aspects of safety planning. Dressing in layers can help a person adapt to changing weather conditions.
“Synthetic materials are ideal for staying warm and dry when it comes to clothing,” said Jeppesen. “They dry faster than natural fibers, and most synthetics will which moisture away from you body and help keep the heat in verses nature fibers like cotton which take much longer to dry and pulls heat from your body when wet.”
Jeppesen also recommends being prepared by packing a knife and some form of fire starter, such as a metal match or waterproof matches.
“Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline and other non-fuel type fire starters will insure you get a fire going when needed,” explained Jeppesen.
Cotton balls soaked in a petroleum jelly will light quickly and burn for a couple minutes or longer, depending on the size of the cotton ball and amount of petroleum jelly used. Store them in waterproof plastic containers, tins, or sealable plastic bags.
These essentials are important for any outdoor adventure, not just hiking, but also when taking to the trails on snowmobiles, ATVs, or motorcycles. There is always the change for mechanical failure or getting lost, so it is best to be prepared. When riding on motorized vehicles be sure to be equipped with personal protection equipment like proper footwear, helmet, and gloves.
“You also have to know where you are going, where you are at, and how to get back,” said Jeppesen. “It’s essential to always carry a map, compass or GPS with you as well. Knowing where you are going, and how to get back, and having tools available to help in the process, will decrease the odds of you meeting some of our fine Search and Rescue Technicians in the wilderness looking for you.”
When your choice of adventure takes you out on the water, it is important to be familiar with Idaho’s Boating Laws and Regulations. The Boundary County Sheriff’s Office offers classes a few times a year. It is also important for a person to become familiarized with the waterways that they will be traveling on.
“The Kootenai River is a dynamic river,” explained Jeppesen. “It looks flat, calm and inviting but there are areas where it’s very dangerous. Its channels, especially upriver from town, can change on a daily basis even if the river is low.”
Jeppesen stressed that it is important to always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), especially if you are kayaking, canoeing, or rafting on our waterways. If going out on the Kootenai River, there is a life jacket loaner station, consisting of a kiosk, instructions on how to properly fit a life jacket, and a variety of life jackets ranging in size from infant to adult extra-large, located at the Kootenai River boat launch. The life jackets are provided free of charge for the public for short-term use.
“Water emergency can and do happen in the blink of an eye,” said Jeppesen. “Having your PFD on, versus sitting in your kayak, being used as a backrest in your kayak, or not having one, can mean the difference between life and death.”
Water temperature is something to be aware of and be prepared for. The Kootenai River and Moyie River are reputed as being cold waterways even during the warm summer months. An unexpected plunge into the water can cause cold water shock that could lead to the onset of hypothermia in a matter of minutes
Prior to setting out on an adventure, always research the area, particularly waterways, and make someone aware of your itinerary and then do not deviate from the plan. There are many areas in the county with limited or no cell phone reception. Even if there is reception, cell phones can be dropped and broken, or run out of batteries.
“When you stick to your itinerary, if you don’t return at your scheduled time, this gives Search and Rescue a place to start looking for you,” explained Jeppesen. “One of the most important things about searching for someone who is lost or injured is having a starting point.”
“If no one knows where you went, or planned on going, we don’t even have a starting point to start looking for someone who may be in trouble once we have been notified,” said Jeppesen. “This creates a delay in Search and Rescue locating someone one who is lost because now have to figure out where you may have gone by locating clues that you had been in a particular area.
Since most people carry cell phones, Jeppesen recommends turning them off when out in nature.
“If you’re making a day of nature, shut your phone off, not only so you can enjoy the wilderness but to save that battery on the phone in case you may need it for an emergency.”
If a person becomes lost they should remain calm and try not to panic.
“Remember that if you took the proper gear, told someone where you were going and stuck to the plan; we will be out looking for you and you have great odds of survival,” said Jeppesen. “The best thing you can do is stay put, don’t move around; its harder to find people who are moving than those who stay put.”
There are many adventures awaiting people in Boundary County and being prepared ensures that they can be enjoyed fully.