Recent missing hiker stories compelled me to do some research on how I could better prepare my family and friends should I become MIA. This is what I’ve done to hopefully be found sooner than later.
Dear Friends & Family,
When you don’t receive two InReach checkin messages from me (usually about 12 hours apart), these are the steps to take.
1. Do a little detective work
Call my cell phone, send a locate and text message to my InReach, check my InReach map, check my facebook postings, check my google timeline, post an inquiry to my private tracking page, message me on my facebook. Search for my phone (use Google Android Tracking Manager).
If no response nor additional checkins after another 12 hours (therefore missed a total of 3-4 checkins), it’s time to get the authorities involved. Yes, there’s a chance that my InReach is broken or lost, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. My consistent checkins will help authorities understand your concerns.
2. Contact law enforcement
Who to contact? Authorities in the county, city or national park from which I last had an InReach checkin (most likely a sheriff’s department). (TIP: You can start with a 911 call and dispatchers should transfer you to the applicable jurisdiction.)
What to say? You want to file a missing persons report (there is NO waiting period to file a report).
Details you’ll need for the report (TIP: Provide your emergency contact or support team a USB drive with the following):
√ Nicknames or aliases used by the person (include trail name if applicable)
√ Address and phone number (include cell carrier so phone can be pinged)
√ Physical description, including height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, build, etc. (TIP: include copy of your driver’s license and a current photo.)
√ Description of the clothing and shoes the person was last seen wearing, include size, color and brand if known (TIP: include photos of you wearing your various layers of clothing, including hat, sunglasses, pack, shoes, etc., plus your shoe tread and print.)
√ List of possessions the person might be carrying, with name/color/model of items such as backpack and tent (TIP: include photos of your pack, tent, sleeping bag, contents of resupply box, etc.)
√ List of scars, tattoos, and other identifying characteristics (TIP: include photos)
√ List of medications the person was taking, as well as allergies, handicaps, and other medical conditions (TIP: include photo of insurance card and doctor names)
√ List of relatives or friends of the missing person, along with contact information
√ List of places the person has been recently (TIP: include your trip itinerary. ReConn Trip Record provides a detailed form. Also a link to your SPOT or InReach map if applicable)
√ Description of the person’s car with license plate, make, model, color anything unique (if applicable) (TIP: include photos)
√ Description of the situation surrounding the person’s disappearance (TIP: discuss any weather, terrain, medical condition concerns)
Keep a record of the report. Make sure you obtain a case number for your missing person’s report. Write down the name of the person in charge of your case.
3. Push officials for Search & Rescue (SAR) help. You are my advocate and need to be the squeaky wheel. Stay in contact with assigned authority. Ask them to check on any recent phone activity.
4. Contact the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). The US Department of Justice operates this system. NamUs lets you upload information about a missing person for use by law enforcement officials, agencies, and individuals. The site helps missing persons cases wrap up sooner by providing this information to the public.
5. Things you can do behind the scenes while officials are doing their thing.
√ Create a facebook group with the specific purpose of collecting and dispersing details in one place. Some have suggested Reddit is a better option.
√ Create a document/spreadsheet to help keep track of and coordinate activities.
√ Spread the word:
√ Create a post to my facebook asking if anyone has seen or heard from me and link it to a new group page asking friends to share to their page and hiker groups etc.
√ Create a flier with and have it posted at nearby trailheads, towns, roads, etc. Post the flier on the new facebook group page to be shared among social media including Instagram using most popular hash tags. The flier should include recent photos, contact number for authorities, link to facebook group page, date missing, last known location, etc.
√ Contact nearby forest service offices, ranger stations, national parks, BLM, fish and game, etc.
√ Contact nearby hospitals and coroners office.
√ Contact media (TV, newspaper, radio, etc).
√ Contact local hiking, equestrian, ATV and hunting/fishing groups.
√ Solicit search assistance (coordinate with authorities and/or SAR).
6. Stay optimistic, I’m a survivor!
I’ll do my very best to prevent you from ever needing this information. Just in case, THANK YOU for doing your very best to help find me.
♥ Jan ♥
- Dedicated Web or Facebook Page:
I created a private facebook page several years ago to help with the process. I post my itinerary and include a link to my InReach map. There’s also a file which includes my emergency contacts, medical information, cell phone provider, credit card info and the “what to do if” page. Photos of me, my gear, shoes, shoe tread, vehicle, license plate, typical resupply box and contents, etc. are on in a shared google album.
I carry an InReach because I like the signal confirmation it provides as well as the capability of two-way texting. I subscribe to the lowest level plan which is about $12/month. With that I send out a checkin each morning and evening I’m on trail, plus I send a map checkin whenever I transition between trails or go off-trail as well as when I leave and return to my vehicle. I also use it for weather updates and urgent communication. On the home screen it includes my phone # as well that of an emergency contact.
I strongly encourage carrying a device, especially when hiking solo, whether it be a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or a satellite communicator such as the InReach or SPOT devices.
Keep your ID readily available for those cases when you can’t speak for yourself. I was involved in an accident where I was in shock and couldn’t answer any of the basic questions. After that I created a sheet I carry with me which has all the important information like name, address, medical history and allergies, emergency contacts, medical insurance, etc. Another option is Road ID.
Keep your phone updated with ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts. Many phones have that as a special designation so others can access without needing your locked pad code.
Consider having your list available to at least one of your emergency contacts. I have mine in my Safety Deposit Box.
Notify your family and friends of your preferences. Some hikers don’t want a search activated. Be sure everyone knows so SAR resources are not wasted and families stressed unnecessarily. If you are interested in rescue, how soon do you want to be reported missing? I have mine set to 24 hours, which most likely means SAR will not be activated for another 24-48 hours.
- Hiker Ethics:
- Be a responsible hiker
- Carry the 10 essentials (and know how to use them)
- Designate emergency contact or support team and provide them with your itinerary, etc.
- Consider taking the Wilderness First Aid course
Real World Experience
On 7/25/18, I had to push the SOS. I was thankful I had the inReach, I’d set it up with emergency contacts, and I had my medical/emergency information list with me. It was such a time saver and stress reducer to hand the paper to first responders and hospital staff. Here’s the link to my story: Life Interrupted . . . Forever Grateful for the SOS Button
If you have other thoughts, please comment so I can update my post. Special thanks to all my angels who keep an electronic eye on me. I appreciate being held accountable and knowing that I have friends who CARE!