Staying safe outdoors on Family Day weekend

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Victoria: No one expects to have to make a call for help when out on a B.C. backcountry adventure but, unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Over the past few weeks, search and rescue (SAR) volunteers throughout the province have been deployed to help British Columbians who have run into trouble in the wilderness. On Family Day weekend in 2018, SAR volunteers responded to 28 incidents. Planning can reduce the number of incidents and could make this Family Day weekend safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Whether hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding or sledding, it is critical to be prepared when heading out in the backcountry. It is especially important, given the current elevated avalanche risk in some areas of B.C., from snow storms on the coast to lingering problems in the southern Interior.

It is also important to monitor safety warnings, including those from Avalanche Canada and Parks Canada. Make sure to inform someone outside of your group about your plans, file a trip plan that includes where you will be and when you expect to return. Finally, do not travel alone, and pack as if you might need to spend the night outdoors, even if that is not the plan.

Recommended items to pack include:

* extra water;

* extra layers of clothing;

* a signalling device, like a whistle;

* a compass, a satellite GPS messenger or fully charged cellphone with portable power bank charger;

* a flashlight;

* a shelter; and

* something to start a fire in case you are caught out overnight.

For more information on making and filing a trip plan, check: www.adventuresmart.ca

Follow these guidelines when you are outdoors and remember, if you become lost, signal for help and stay in one place:

* Do not venture out of bounds or off marked trails.

* Be aware of how far you have gone and when you need to turn back to avoid hiking in the dark. Be aware of the time for sunset.

* Take the conditions into account and plan appropriately. Learn more about avalanche safety and risks, avalanche safety equipment and get the most recent bulletin and weather forecast at: www.avalanche.ca

There are more than 2,500 SAR volunteers in British Columbia who brave the elements to save others. When people are unprepared, it can put SAR teams at risk as well. For anyone taking advantage of the terrain British Columbia has to offer over the long weekend, get ready to enjoy and prepare to keep everyone as safe as possible.