Don't Be Stupid

I once gave quick first aid presentation to a group of scouts, Webelos, to be specific, and I was discussing some of the ways that a person can get in trouble on the trails; one 8-yr old girl summarized the whole talk by saying "don't be stupid."

Really, that drove the message home.

When I looked at the content that's normally included in a Wilderness First Aid course, and tried to think about what could be cut out, I decided that, for MOST trail users, weather-related topics could probably be eliminated. Why? Because MOST trail users, especially day users, here in New England, have the opportunity to make good decisions based on weather predictions. Nor'Easter coming in? Tropical storm? Even just high winds? Maybe it's a good day to stay off the trails. It's simple, and falls back to "don't be stupid."

And if you're heading somewhere that might be a bit unpredictable, you need to be prepared (another Scout reference), and be ready to make a change in plans based on conditions. Hiking and the trail is icy? Either you were prepared, and have spikes or crampons, or you turn back. 

Again, be prepared and don't be stupid. 

Otherwise, if you fall and break an ankle or wrist, you really did it to yourself.

Anyway, this is all preamble to what I wanted to talk about this week, and that's a recent search and rescue incident that happened on Mount Washington

The short story is that a 22yr old hiker had to be rescued from Mount Washington, and his predicament was the result of what sounds to have been several bad decisions, including not turning back when many others did. The rescue took more than 10 hours and risked the lives of everyone involved. For his part, the hiker sounds like he's done a mea culpa and taken responsibility for his actions and may be paying financially as well (as others have done).

This really only one story. If you follow news like this, like I do, you'd see several stories from all  over the country, from New York to California, from Florida to Colorado and likely everywhere in between. 

Of course, not all rescues involve unprepared people. As we know, accidents can happen, and many reports DO emphasize that those needing help WERE prepared, but don't confuse prepared with experienced.

Overall, it seems that most rescuers recommend that people avoid shaming those that need help. I get that, and I respect that. As a healthcare provider, I see MANY people who are suffering the consequences of the decisions they've made, whether that's decades of smoking or decades of inactivity. There has to be a balance, and we have to be able to educate people without shaming. People need to take some steps toward self preservation and sometimes that means we highlight the mistakes people make so that others can learn from them.

Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources

Check the weather, carry water, carry warm clothes, carry a flashlight, be prepared, and most of all, don't be stupid.

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