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Tramping tips follow recent search

A 41-year-old man who was reported missing after failing to return from a walk at Mt Dick in Carterton on Tuesday evening was recovered “safe and well” by Search and Rescue [SAR] at about 4.30 pm on Wednesday, a police spokesperson has confirmed.

No other details about the circumstances were available.

However, police sergeant Tony Matheson, who is also part of the Wairarapa SAR team, took the opportunity to talk to the Times-Age about how rescues are coordinated and provide tips for trampers about what to do if they find themselves in strife.

There will always be one police squad member on call for SAR operations, he explained, with police coordinating Category 1 operations, in which local resources and people who are familiar with the area are utilised.

The Rescue Coordinator Centre New Zealand [RCCNZ] coordinates operations that fall under Category 2 – these usually involve national or international resources and cover incidents in which emergency locator beacons have been activated, or marine searches more than 12 nautical miles from the shore.

Matheson said the key before taking any tramping trip is to “plan ahead”.

“The first thing you should do is plan for it, which means making sure you have enough gear, knowing where you’re going, and having a good idea of the geography.”

Regardless of the season, it’s also essential to consider various potential weather conditions.

If you arrive on a hot day, don’t expect it to be like that all day or night, he said.

Most of the gear essentials are basic things like water and a way to communicate – preferably a beacon, Matheson said.

When trampers find themselves disoriented, some will push through to try to reorient themselves, but Matheson suggests they instead return to a place where they were last oriented.

If they aren’t confident making their way back from that spot, they can remain there until rescue comes.

“Attracting attention is another thing; find a clearing or somewhere next to a clearing where you’ve got some shelter,” he said.

Helicopters will fly overhead to do a search of the area and will always return for at least a second run after a break.

“We know that sometimes people will be trying to get themselves to a position where they can be seen,” Matheson said.

Signals with smoke [though he doesn’t recommend it in Wairarapa at this time of the year], clothes, and ferns are other ways to attract SAR attention.

“Even things like ferns, some of the bottom sides of ferns are silver in colour, you could lay a star shape out,” Matheson said.

“If you’re out in the open somewhere, you could make an ‘attraction signal’ with an item of clothing; if it’s near a riverbed, lay it out flat so it can be seen.

“People in aircraft are always going to be looking for the person, but they’ll also be looking for anything that’s unusual.”

The police SAR team also help in situations near marine areas and with missing people.

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