Stay on the Pavement, Avoid “Search and Rescue” this Winter
Beautiful Oregon winters are here and with that comes winter driving. The Jackson County Search and Rescue (SAR) Division, wants to encourage people to get out and enjoy the beautiful, smoke-free, snowy winter days. With that said, they encourage everyone who plans to travel this winter to follow FOUR simple rules to keep winter travelers safe.
With the many years of helping winter travelers, JCSO have found problems could have been avoided if travelers followed these simple yet effective rules of winter driving.
1: Inform family or friends of your travel plans. Of the three “winter rules,” this is probably the most important and most effective. Be sure to inform someone of your planned route, to and from your destination, and a timeline for your travels. Inform that person of a specific time to call law enforcement to notify SAR of the overdue traveler. Over the years, something we hear often is, “I wasn’t sure when to call” or “I should’ve called sooner.” If you provide someone a specific time to call SAR, this releases that person of the uncertainty and stress of, “When do I call?” When it comes to SAR, time is of the essence — and every minute counts. Remember, this rule does no good if you do not stick to your route. Give a timeline and a route to someone you trust. It just might save your life. Use https://tripcheck.com/ and keep on maintained roads.
2: Don’t depend entirely on your GPS. Modern day technology has done wonders for search and rescue. With smart phones and maps (SARTopo, Avenza, Google maps, etc.), search and rescue has become more rescue than search. When using your GPS (any make/model), be sure to use common sense over blindly following the GPS, no matter what. GPS cannot account for things such as weather and road conditions. This holds especially true when dealing with backcountry roads. There may have been a usable gravel road just a couple of years ago, but now it could be blocked or unusable by the average vehicle. And more than any other road or highway, Interstate 5 is maintained. If there is a closure, that means conditions are bad. Wait until it reopens.
Things to look for in order to encourage you to turn around: continued or worsening snow conditions; road narrowing; and paved roads turning into gravel and then dirt and then even worse dirt roads, with rutted out tracks and potholes. Stay on the paved, maintained roads. Your shortcut or GPS rerouting option could cost you your life.
3: Know your vehicle and its limitations. Your new SUV with all the bells and whistles can’t go through every off-road condition thrown at it. No matter how good the traction control of your vehicle is, there comes a time when too much is just too much. Don’t push your vehicle to the “Point of No Return.” While driving in the snow, always leave yourself a way out. If you get to a point that you can’t safely turn around, then you’ve gone too far! Keeping proper supplies in your vehicle is just as important. Think of external and internal for your vehicle. Externally do you have proper tools to make your trip if something happens? (Chains, spare tire, shovel, etc.) Internally do you have supplies to keep you warm and healthy while waiting for help? (Blankets, First-Aid kit, food, WATER, etc.)
4: Finally, always stay with your vehicle should you become lost or stranded. If you followed the above “winter rules,” help will find you soon enough. Also, if you can’t reach 911 by calling, you can try texting 911. Just send 911 a text with your situation and possible location. Text messages get through much easier than phone calls. If technology fails, the person with your trip plan can still call for help.
If your vehicle is equipped with a satellite-based SOS device, keep the service activated after that first year when the free service expires. They work well in most conditions, giving your location to rescuers.
ODOT and our county road and search and rescue crews do great work! Please stay on the main paved and maintained roads and highways.
Courtesy of JCSO, Sergeant Shawn Richards and Deputy David Duke, Jackson Co. Search and Rescue