Robert Williamson

STOP: What to do when lost in the woods

By Robert Williamson, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jul. 10, 2020 at 12:14 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — Ever found yourself stuck in the woods while hiking?

STOP is an acronym or mantra that should be taught to all outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, the STOP acronym is taught in Scouting along with the ABC's.

S: Stay calm, stay put.

It is easier for searchers to find a stationary person than one moving around. This can be hard to do when you realize you are separated from your group or realize you are lost.

Keeping your wits about you is often the most important thing you can do. Panic can create problems. Sit down, sip some water and eat a snack if you have it.

T: Think.

Stay positive. Think of how to make your situation the best it can be as opposed to thinking of what bad can happen. Think about the resources you have on your person as well as those around you.

Your mind is your best survival tool. Use it before doing anything. Know that as soon as you are missing, people will be looking for you.

O: Observe.

Again, look at your surroundings. What can be used for shelter from the cold, storms or darkness? If darkness is quickly coming, busy yourself with constructing a shelter.

Getting inside even a crude shelter will provide a measure of peace and security through a dark night. Listen. You may hear someone calling your name or voices of other people that you can signal.

P: Plan.

Take an inventory of what you have with you. Plan how to best utilize it. Assume you will be found quickly, but plan for what you can do if help is a day or two away. Plan how to signal someone and have the items ready.

Stay on the trail if you are still on it. Build your shelter as close to the trail as possible. Leave something or some type of signal on the trail if you need to leave it for shelter. If you are off-trail, look for an area where searchers from foot or air would best be able to spot you.

Parents should teach STOP to their children, and it should be reemphasized before any outing into the outdoors where the chance of someone becoming disoriented and lost is a possibility.

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Robert Williamson

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