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Search for missing tourists a reminder for staying safe outdoors

By Nkoyo Iyamba  |  Posted May 9th, 2011 @ 11:59pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — A wrong turn lead to a seven-week fight for survival for a Canadian woman lost in the backwoods of Nevada. Rita Chretien survived in the wilderness eating trail mix, beef jerky and snow.

Rita is now safe, but her husband, Albert Chretien, is still missing.

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The Chretiens' story makes you think, and wonder. Could you survive in the wilderness for weeks or even just a few days?

As search and rescue teams continue to come the remote terrain looking for Albert Chretien, situations like this are a good reminder to keep simple survival tips in the forefront of our minds.

"Most survival skills will cross over no matter what situation you're in, because you're going to use the same basic equipment no matter what you're doing," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Kummerfeldt.

Kummerfeldt trains combat forces in the most extreme situations. But for the rest of us, he says some low-tech items and strategies can keep us alive.

"I've got a jacket and some gloves," Kummerfeldt said. "So if it's chilly and wet, you're gonna be able to protect yourself in the environment that way. Also, a space blanket — that's gonna help hold your heat in, and it's brightly-colored and reflective on either side so you can use it as a visual signal."

All of this can fit into a small backpack; and Kummerfeldt says a must-have is water. You can survive days without food, but you always need water.

Other simple things, like an unscented candle, will also help. "[It's] really handy if you don't want to have a large fire, or you don't have the ability to build a large fire," Kummerfeldt said. "You can just light the candle and drape a coat or a space blanket over yourself, and that's going to hold the heat from the candle. (You) Just gotta stick your head out the side every so often so you don't give yourself carbon monoxide poisoning."

All of these are pretty low-tech: first aid kit, a compass with batteries, a map, and probably most important a plan. Kummerfeldt sums it up as the basics of civilian survival.

"Have a plan, find water, get shelter, and keep yourself protected from the elements," he said.

Kummerfeldt also suggests letting people know where you're headed so if anything should happen, search crews know where to look.

Email: niyamba@ksl.com

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