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After four days and nights alone and lost in the Hunua Ranges, the Mountain Safety Council is thankful that 39 year old Ronnie Fong has been found alive and in reasonably good condition by Search and Rescue teams.
However, the incident serves as another reminder to all outdoors enthusiasts to leave written intentions of where they are going (including a time and date to raise the alarm if they haven’t returned) as well an appropriate means of emergency communication says Mountain Safety Council Chief Executive, Darryl Carpenter.
‘When venturing into the bush, whether it’s an intended half-day tramp as in Mr Fong’s case or a multi-day adventure, it is essential to plan and prepare by following the 5 simple rules of the outdoor safety code,’ said Mr Carpenter.
Mr Fong did a number of things right including texting his family to indicate he would be late meeting them at a predetermined pickup point. When he did not arrive later that evening, his family contacted the authorities.
‘What would have been even better though is if the family could have presented the search and rescue team with written details of Mr Fong’s trip ‘intentions’. This information can point rescuers in the right direction, narrow down search areas and speed up the likelihood of being found,’ said Mr Carpenter.
‘Whether you are highly experienced or not, trampers should take a few minutes BEFORE leaving on a trip to complete your trip intentions. There are a number of ways you can do this and give it to a friend or family member who cares about you,’ added Mr Carpenter.
Walkers, trampers, hunters and climbers of all abilities and experience are encouraged to visit www.adventuresmart.org.nz for useful tips, information and resources regarding outdoor safety as well as all the details about how to leave your intentions.
In addition to leaving intentions, the Mountain Safety Council also recommends a form of emergency communication such as a personal locator beacon (PLB) is carried, especially if walking, tramping or hunting alone. Cell phone coverage is not guaranteed in some areas, especially rural and remote backcountry locations.
“We want more people to get into the outdoors and we want them to plan and prepare so they come back safely,’ added Mr Carpenter.
‘We urge everyone to follow the 5 simple rules of the Outdoor Safety Code and be adventure smart,’ concluded Carpenter.
The New Zealand Outdoor Safety Code
1. Plan your trip thoroughly
Seek local knowledge and plan the route you will take and the amount of time you can reasonably expect it to take.
2. Tell someone
Tell someone your plans and complete your written Outdoors Intentions using the tools available at www.adventuresmart.org.nz At the very least, tell a friend or family member where you are going and date and time for when to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned.
3. Be aware of the weather
New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the forecast and expect weather changes. Check track and hut conditions. Beware of rivers – if in doubt STAY OUT.
4. Know your limits
Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.
5. Take sufficient supplies
Make sure you have enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency rations for the worst-case scenario. Take an appropriate means of communication such as a Mountain Radio or Personal Location Beacon and know how to use them.
For further information about safety in the outdoors, courses and training, information on outdoors intentions or communication devices, please visit www.mountainsafety.org.nz