Scouts everywhere are celebrating the safe return of a Utah Boy Scout, who went missing in the wilderness during a camping expedition.
When the 12-year-old was found, after spending a cold night alone in the woods, he credited Scouting skills with helping him keep a cool head until he was found.
“Scouts learn important lessons - not just about being productive members of society - but about survival skills,” said Greg Shelley, Richmond County Scouting Unit Commissioner. “Those lessons can be helpful to anyone - not just Scouts on camping trips with their troops.”
As cooler fall weather approaches, many families will be heading to the woods to enjoy the foliage and to take advantage of hiking and camping.
“Knowing what to do in crisis situations can mean the difference between life and death,” said Shelley.
The first rule of thumb for Scouters is to always let someone know where you’re going.
“Our young Cub Scouts have a “buddy rule,” and must always accompany their assigned buddies everywhere - even to the bathroom,” said Shelley.
Knowing not to get separated from the group is an important lesson for younger children. Older and more experienced explorers should always be sure to tell someone where they’re headed.
The second rule for anyone lost in the woods is to stay put once you realize you’re lost.
“We tell Scouts to find a clearing, so that they can be easily spotted,” said Shelley.
A good hint for very young children is to advise them to “make friends” with a tree and not to leave their new friend. This could give children an added sense of comfort, while encouraging them to stay in one location.
A whistle could be a lifesaver for anyone lost in the woods. The signal for distress is three whistles in a row. The sound can carry farther than a voice.
“Scouts are trained to build lean-to shelters from branches and how to build fires,” said Shelley. “For small children, or non-Scouters, I would still advise doing the best you can to make some sort of shelter and trying to make a fire. Rubbing two sticks together might not get a fire started, but the work keeps the mind occupied.”
Showing children where water collects in rock hollows and leaves can also be a lifesaver.
To an untrained child, venturing to eat wild foods could be dangerous. It’s best to encourage waiting for rescuers to bring food.
“Scouts are trained by professionals on edible wild foods,” said Shelley. “That’s one of the ways they earn badges. I wouldn’t advise children or inexperienced adults to just start eating things - although acorns are an easily identifiable and edible food source that are plentiful in this area. They don’t taste very good, but will get the job done.”
Shelley said Scouts are taught to be mentally prepared to hunker down in such situations for at least 24-48 hours.
“It’s important to teach kids not to panic,” he said. “Whether learned in the Scouts, or from parents, it’s important that kids have information that will empower them to know the right thing to do in such situations. It saved the life of the Utah camper, and many others.”
Shelley said that, to his knowledge, there has never been a missing Scout reported on any expeditions in Richmond County.
- Staff writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.