Sgt. Bryan Lovell, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office
Eastern Idaho has an abundance of outdoor activity during the cold winter months. Our deputies and Search and Rescue volunteers have rescued numerous people who were unprepared for the weather and road conditions just since Thanksgiving. Whether you are experienced or not in winter driving or recreation, we recommend you always plan for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances.
1.Plan ahead before you travel. Road conditions can change rapidly depending on the weather and the area. When traveling make sure you plan a little extra time to get to your destination so you don’t have to hurry. Drivers who are in a hurry and without patience for other traffic or winter conditions tend to be involved in or cause unnecessary crashes. Go online or call area transportation districts to check the road conditions before you head out and plan your route accordingly. Pay attention to what you are doing and avoid distractions like your cell phone. Don’t assume that just because other vehicles are traveling faster than you that the roads are less slick or hazardous. Always, no matter the conditions, make sure you and the other passengers in your vehicle are buckled up.
2.Store emergency kit in your vehicle. It doesn’t hurt to carry several emergency items in your vehicle in the event you have a mechanical issue and are without heat, slide off the roadway or are involved in a crash. Extra clothing or blankets stashed somewhere in your vehicle can mean the difference in avoiding hypothermia and frostbite. A small amount of extra water, snacks or non-perishable food items are also handy if you find yourself delayed with no convenience stores in sight. You can use your cell phone in an emergency situation as long as you have enough battery life and phone signal. If you find yourself in an area without signal you may end up out in the cold waiting for help.
3.Tell someone where you’re going. Anytime you travel, tell a family member or friend where you are going and when you plan to return. If you plan to snowmobile, ski or snow shoe in our backcountry areas this is particularly important in the event you get stranded and fail to return. Bonneville County is 1,900 square miles, most of which is outside of populated areas, so a place to send help your way is very important. If you find yourself stranded or lost in the back country don’t try to walk out. The best thing you can do is stay where you are, find or build shelter and stay dry and warm.
4.Pack emergency items for outdoor activities. Carrying a few necessities during your backcountry adventure can help you avoid injury or death due to harsh winter weather. A small shovel and some fire starter, along with extra water and food can get you through and unanticipated lengthy stay in bad weather. Wear appropriate clothing, such as multiple loose layers, that will help keep you dry. Learn to start a fire and build a temporary emergency shelter. We recommend that if you carry a cell phone to power it off until you need it. It’s also a good idea to carry a flashlight, whistle or some other signaling device to aide in your rescue.
We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of Search and Rescue volunteers from our county, first responder fire, ambulance and quick response units that work with our deputies when emergencies occur. Accidents happen, and the more prepared your are the better chances you have of being rescued quickly, safely and hopefully without unnecessary injury.