Outdoor Safety Ten Commandments
Leave your intentions with responsible people and always remember to tell them when you have safely completed a track. Write your entry in every intentions book on your route, even if you are not staying in every hut – going in and coming out. Leave a date for when to raise the alarm if you have not reached your next destination or returned. Intentions Systems Adventure Smart
Know where you are and where you're going. Do a course, mark the track on a proper topographical map (not a road map), take a compass (and a GPS) and know how to use them. Tracks can be hard to find or follow - low use, spring growth, tree fall and vandals wrecking signage means you may need to work it out for yourself.
Accept responsibility for your own safety and well-being. If you're in a group, know the expectations, strengths, weaknesses and medical requirements of that group. Ask yourself if you and your group are physically and mentally up to the task ahead. Travel within your abilities and knowledge.
If you're in a group, plan a clear leadership process so that your party can make decisions and take actions. In an emergency, leadership, cool analysis and implementation of a plan are vital.
Plan your journey but be flexible, know where you are going and how long it will take. Learn from others: locals, outdoor people, guide books and maps. Take an appropriate means of communication or know your communication options. Make sure you have sufficient food, equipment and emergency rations for the worst case scenario. Checklist your equipment and survival essentials.
6. Have a plan B
Consider actual and potential hazards and know how you will deal with them. Anticipate what might go wrong and what your options are. Have an escape route. Take spare food supplies.
Understand general and local weather patterns. NZ weather can be highly unpredictable, check the forecast and expect changes. Respect your environment: the terrain, the conditions, the weather and the water - river, glacier, lake or sea. A river may rise very quickly even if it's not raining where you are. NEVER cross a river in flood. On the coast, travelling at low tide is always easier and safer.
Be vigilant. Continually reassess the risks. Observe the environment, the weather, your people and your equipment. Check the weather and consider alternatives if it looks bad.
Be honest with yourself about your fitness, mental state, judgement, skill, knowledge and experience. Never let desire over-rule judgement. Better to turn back, than get out of your depth.
Judgement comes from experience, skill and knowledge. Heed your judgement and respect your gut feeling; it is your own in-built alarm. Judgement develops with time, from successes as well as failures. Learn from your outdoor experiences.
Adapted from Johnny Mulheron’s list in NZ FMC Bulletin 169, August 2007