The holiday festivities are almost over. Now it’s time to enjoy all that Christmas loot. In Sitka, some of the most prized Christmas toys aid in outdoor exploration. But with these toys, comes great responsibility. Search and Rescue captain Don Kluting and Air Station Sitka operations officer Pete Melnick had these words of warning for Sitkans eager to hit the trails.
Sitka is the ideal for day hikes with epic views, or island hopping from a skiff. It is also ideal for hypothermia. Here’s Air Station Sitka operations officer Pete Melnick: “The weather can change so fast and if you’re not properly dressed, if you’re not properly equipped, it’s unforgiving. It will take your life.”
Danger can strike close to home. Without dry and warm clothing, Don Kluting says even a run on the cross trail can quickly escalate into a life and death scenario. “You don’t plan on anything happening but you break a leg and now you’re not able to move.”
But, enjoying the outdoors doesn’t need to be risky – as long as you take some basic precautions.
Kluting says, “number one file a trip plan.”
Before you leave, let someone know the details of your trip: where you plan to go, and when you’ll be back. Call Search and Rescue. Call the Fire Department. This is just one way to ensure rescuers can reach you sooner should plans go awry.
Melnick recommends calling USCG’s multi-mission unit, sector Juneau, if you decide to deviate from your plan once in the field.
Kluting: Number two make sure you have the appropriate equipment.
Mostly importantly the right clothing. Choose a polypropylene or capilene base layer – something to wick away the moisture. Layer that with a breathable waterproof shell.
It also doesn’t hurt to carry a survival pack containing a space blanket, garbage bag, flashlight, a whistle, and a signaling device. Melhick says a signaling device, or something that will pinpoint your location like a VHF radio or a personal locator beacon is critical.
A charged cell phone can also make a big difference. Kluting says that texts will often come through in areas where reception is spotty. “It prevents that time spending hours searching in an area where you never were.”
Both the Fire Station and Sitka Mountain Rescue have equipment available that can supplement your survival pack. The Fire Hall has VHF radios available for loan, or you can pick up a personal locator beacon from Sitka Mountain Rescue.
If you think that you or a family member might be facing an emergency rescue situation, Melnick says it’s better to call sooner rather than later. “Time is the enemy here. Once you get exposed the clock starts ticking.”
If you have any questions about outdoor preparedness in Sitka call the Sitka Mountain Rescue office at 747-3225.
Melissa Marconi-Wentzel also contributed to this story.