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Coming up with emergency information for a recent trip got me thinking: What information should you leave with your emergency contact?

I imagine the answer depends on the length of the trip, remoteness of the area, how much your plans are set in stone, etc... Some things I ended up coming up with:

  • Expected departure and return
  • Date & time to consider overdue
  • Equipment information: color of clothing, packs/tents, helmets/ropes/climbing, etc...
  • Rough itinerary
  • List of potential hikes/climbs/etc..
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    If you're backpacking or planning on switching locations during your trip, I would recommend listing your itinerary with both locations and times, or perhaps even including a map of your backpacking route with planned campsites. – pheidlauf Aug 19 '14 at 20:27
  • I'll suggest reviewing the form over on reconn.org; we created it for just this purpose. (Using the PDF version, you can save a mostly-filled in copy and update the trip details for each trip.) – requiem Aug 20 '14 at 4:59
  • This is going to be slightly country dependant. There is going to be a big difference between getting lost in the New Forest in the UK and Rockies in the US! – user2766 Aug 20 '14 at 8:34
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If something goes wrong, the information you provide your emergency contact will be the starting point for the information Search and Rescue groups use to look for you. Much of this information will remain the same for multiple trips and some will be trip-specific. The items I list won't be comprehensive, but rather a selection of items from an online trip-report form that was created for just this purpose. Thus, you can prepare in advance a packet with most of the information and just update the trip details each time you head out.

Identity Information

  • Name, age, sex, height, weight, hair and eye color.
  • Any medical conditions, medications, or allergies?
  • A recent picture of yourself.

Skills

  • Are you a skilled hiker, a novice kayaker, regularly climb 5.13 trad or stick only to trails?
  • How much first aid knowledge do you have? What about navigation and survival knowledge?

Local Agencies

Your emergency contact can always call the local emergency number, but contact information for the Sheriff's office (or appropriate local agency) where you'll be starting your hike may be more useful.

Transport

Are you taking a car, bus, train, plane, or llama to the trailhead? For personal vehicles, the make, model, color, and license plate number are helpful. (If you take a bus, the driver or other passengers might remember you.)

Itinerary

A map with your expected route highlighted is most convenient. Alternate routes, expected campsites, and potential side trips should also be noted. You should have a rough idea when you'll start, when you'll return, and generally how quickly you cover ground.

Communications

What navigation or signalling equipment do you have? If a PLB, is it registered? If a cell phone or two-way satellite messenger (InReach, Spot, etc.), what type is it and what's the contact information? Is there a URL where it displays its location?

Equipment

You don't need to list every item, but larger items are easier to spot and smaller items may be found by searchers. An easy way to inventory is to simply lay everything out on the floor and take a picture. While you're doing this, it's also good to note your shoe size, model, and include a picture of the soles.

  • A couple of things to add, based on my experience of reporting overdue walkers, from registering kayak passage plans with UK coastguard and from being a cave rescuer. Under "Identity", you should add the colours of you clothing (the outermost layer you'll be wearing). Under "Equipment" list things that affect your ability/rate of progress - crampons, torch, spare paddle. "Communications" may also include torch and emergency flares. Many of the items can usefully be on a checklist, for your own benefit, too. – Toby Speight Mar 22 '17 at 11:22
  • "Local Agencies" becomes something like "when and whom to contact". A definite time helps avoid both undue delay and unexpected rescue, and the call-out procedure may be unfamiliar to your contact (e.g. in Britain, Coastguard is accessed directly via the 999 (112) service, but cave rescues go via Police). – Toby Speight Mar 22 '17 at 11:25
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Obviously, the more specific you can be about what route you'll actually be taking the better, but the most important detail is nailing down the trailhead or launch point you're going to begin your trip from. This usually establishes a good starting point to work from in any kind of emergency.

You should establish the time that you expect to return, your emergency contact should use good judgement to determine wether or not you're overdue. If you're going on a seven day backpacking excursion, it wouldn't be unreasonable for you to end up needing an extra day. But if you're just doing a 2 hour loop on a Sunday morning and you're nowhere to be seen come dinner time, then it's time to sound the alarm now isn't it.

Other than that, just the usual list: itinerary, colors of clothing and equipment, whether or not you have a GPS or a radio, etc ( which you probably should ). You get the idea. The more accurate your information is, the better your chances of receiving help in an emergency.

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    Regarding a radio: if using an FRS/GMRS radio, it might be useful to note what channel (and privacy code if applicable) your radio is on. Then if you get lost, you can set it to that channel and there's a chance that you would be able to communicate with rescuers. – nhinkle Aug 19 '14 at 21:13
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These two you mentioned are very important.

  • Expected departure and return
  • Date & time to consider overdue

Just saying what time you're expected back isn't enough. If I'm going in an area that has any level of danger, I tell people when I expect to make contact, and when to call 911.

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