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Home arrow Wilderness Safety arrow Hug-A-Tree

Emergency Phone Number (626) 355-1414 (Sierra Madre Police Dept.)
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - anywhere, any time, any weather

Hug-A-Tree and Survive PDF Print E-mail

The Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team is pleased to present this important program for the children of the community. The program, which consists of a DVD movie, demonstrations, and a question and answer period, is geared to children 5 -12 years of age. We are happy to present the program at your church, school, meeting hall or at the Rescue Station in Sierra Madre. This, as well as all of our programs, are provided free of charge as part of our commitments to public education.

The History of Hug-A-Tree and Survive

In February 1981, 9 year old Jimmy Beveridge became lost during a family camping trip in Palomar State Park. The search for Jimmy was the largest in the history of San Diego County. After four days, Jimmy's body was found approximately two miles from the campsite. He had died from hypothermia.

Many people were affected by this tragedy and had a desire to prevent it from occuring again. This was the beginning of Hug-A-Tree and Survive. The Hug-A-Tree and Survive program is designed to tell a simple story that will teach children how to avoid getting lost, how to stay comfortable if they get lost, and how to be spotted and found. We hope your children never need this knowledge, but if you discuss this handout with your children, it may help them to remember one or more facts that will make the search short and successful.

How to Hug-A-Tree

1. Hug a Tree once you know you are lost.

Once you know you are lost, hug a tree!  One of the greatest fears many of us have is being alone.  Hugging a tree or other stationary object, and even talking to it, can help calm you down and prevent panic.  By staying in one place, you will be found far more quickly, and wonít be injured in a fall.

2. Always carry a trash bag and whistle on a picnic, hike, or camping trip.

Whenever you go hiking, you should carry a whistle on a string around your neck and a trash bag.  By making a hole in the side of the bag (always make a hole so you donít suffocate!) for your face, and putting it over your head, it will keep you dry and warm.  The whistle can be heard from farther away than your voice, even when you are yelling very loudly, and it takes less energy to use.

3. My parents won't be angry at me.

Time and again, children have avoided searchers because they were ashamed of getting lost, and afraid of punishment.  Anyone can become lost, even adults!  So donít be ashamed.  Just admit it, accept it and take actions to be comfortable while you wait for the searchers to arrive.  Your parents will be so happy to see you again, and to know that you are safe.  So thereís no need to be frightened or worried about that.  And they will be so proud of you for using your head since it is your best survival tool.

4. Make Yourself Big.

From a helicopter, people are hard to see when they are standing up, when they are in a group of trees, or wearing dark clothing.  Find your tree to hug near a small clearing if possible.  Wear a brightly colored jacket (red and orange are easy to see from far away) when you go into the woods or the desert.  Lie down when the helicopter flies over.  If it is cold and you are rested, make crosses or an ďSOSĒ using broken twigs, branches, rocks or by dragging your foot in the dirt.

5. There are no animals out there that wil hurt you.

If you hear a noise at night, yell at it!  If it is an animal, it will run away to protect itself.  If it is a searcher, you will be found.

6. You have hundreds of friends looking for you.

Many children who are lost donít realize that if they will just sit down and stay put, one of the many searchers will find them.  The searchers will be yelling your name, but they are not angry.  They are just worried about you and want to find you as quickly as possible.  Donít be afraid to let them know where you are.

Additional tips for adults:

1. Try to keep kids from getting lost in the first place.

Children are easily distracted and will wander off a trail, so it is important to teach them to stay ON the trail.  Never let your child walk a trail alone.  Teach your child to pick out a high landmark such as a prominent hill, or note the direction of the sun in order to prevent disorientation.

2. Admit to yourself when you become lost.

It can and does happen to anyone, yet it is a source of shame when it happens. When you become lost, admit it, accept it, take actions to be comfortable, and stay in the area. Everyone should stay together until you are found by searchers.  Use your head; it is your best survival tool.

3. Call the police or sheriff quickly, if your child is lost.

Ask them for a "Search and Rescue Team." If your child is lost, it is important to act quickly.  The search area becomes wider and wider the longer you wait to bring in professional assistance due to the childís possible movements.  Also, a slow response is very dangerous when the weather is bad Ė it can wipe out your childís tracks or put them in danger of exposure.  Donít worry about calling too early and having to cancel the request for assistance.  Search and rescue teams do not mind turning around, and there is never a charge to you for calling for help.

4. Be available for interviewing.

Clues which lead to finding your child in good shape usually come from family and friends who remain on the scene and talk openly and accurately with the search leader or his representative.  Any personal information you provide will be kept confidential.

5. Footprint the children in your group before you hit the trail.

It only takes a few minutes but it can cut down search time by several hours.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on a soft surface such as a folded towel or carpet.  Mark the foil with the childís name.  With this print, trackers can separate your childís track from the hundreds of others in the area and quickly determine the direction of travel.

This Program is Dedicated to the Memory of Jimmy Beveridge.
Contact Us

For information on scheduling a Hug-A-Tree presentation in the LA area, please contact:
Bruce Lamarche, Public Education Coordinator
(626) 355-3411 (answer machine)

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 February 2011 )