Search and rescue expert has tips for hikers

Jun 22, 2022, 7:00 PM
Salt Lake County Search and Rescue safely rescued a hiker  out of the Lisa Falls trail on Friday.
Salt Lake County Search and Rescue safely rescued a hiker out of the Lisa Falls trail on Friday. Photo caption: Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office

SALT LAKE CITY — Summer is here and that means it’s go time for search and rescue teams. Before heading out to enjoy Utah’s great outdoors, KSL NewsRadio guest hosts Cate Klundt and Marty Carpenter talked with Wally Perschon of the FirstNet at AT&T. Many search and rescue crews and law enforcement teams use FirstNet to coordinate rescue efforts for lost or injured hikers, snowmobilers, skiers and mountaineers.

“As someone who has rescued people who have gotten lost, what is it that you wish people would know before they would head out off the beaten path?” Carpenter asked.

Perschon said his best advice is know before you go. Know where you’re heading and how difficult the trail might be. Are you physically able to manage the requirements the trail presents? Study the maps of the hiking area. Does it have cellphone service? And take someone with you.

Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return, he added.

Search and rescue for hikers

  • Zion National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Arches National Park were ranked 6th, 7th and 10th in the US, with more than 700 total search and rescue  (SAR) missions from 2018-2020, according to the digital publication Outforia as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.
  • And 2021 was the busiest year in recorded history for search and rescue crews in Zion National Park, according to kjzz.com.

“I’ve gotten into a lot of snowmobiling lately and so we’re always trying to go with at least four people,” so if someone is injured, there is a person to stay behind while two others go for help, Perschon said.

Why do hikers get lost?

  • The number one way hikers get lost while hiking is by not staying on the designated trail.
  • The second most common way hikers end up lost while hiking is due to bad weather or a storm rolling in while hiking, causing them to become disoriented or lose their bearings, according to Outside Pulse.

“When you do find people, are they surprised that they got lost?” Klundt asked.

“Yes, they are. They’re usually alone. Let’s say they didn’t download mapping on their phones or they expected to have [cellphone] service and magically help them get back. . . . or their battery power was not sufficient on their phones or devices,” Perschon said.

Prepare for the unexpected

“When you get off that beaten path, I’m wondering as people feel sort of a sense of confidence when they have their phone with them. Do they get into places where cellphones don’t work?  . . . How does that contribute to the problem?” Carpenter asked.

“They usually don’t take enough water. They get in areas where they thought they’d have [cellphone] service, and they don’t . . . (And) they hadn’t prepared with mapping or GPS and then it gets dark. They didn’t bring lighting or something for an overnight stay,” Perschon said. But “we’re always glad to help people out.”




Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google PlayBefore

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Search and rescue expert has tips for hikers