The reason you should complete a trip plan and leave it with someone you trust is so someone will know where to begin a search if you do not return at the intended time. If you leave a trip plan with a friend, make sure they are aware of why you are doing so, and explain to them the importance of their role.
The trip plan must answer all the basic questions (sometimes known as the 5 W’s and H), as all of these questions will be asked by a search manager initiating a search.
- WHO? Provide names and a detailed description of who is in your party, what they are wearing, gear they have with them, training and experience, medical conditions, who to notify, etc.
- WHEN? It is important to include when you are going and when you plan to return from your trip. If you are not back at the intended time or day, this is what will initiate a response first from your friend then from SAR. It is good to build in a buffer to allow for minor mishaps and underestimating the time it may take for your trip.
- WHY? State the purpose of your trip, and the mode in which you will be traveling (e.g. day hike, overnight, skiing, climbing, and mushroom-picking, etc.).
- WHERE? Give specific locations of the area in which your trip is, as well as your intended route to your destination. It is also good to provide an alternate route.
- WHAT? The equipment and supplies you have with you will help searchers know what to look for, as well as determine your level of preparedness for the given terrain and weather.
- HOW? Indicate how you are getting to the starting point and end point of your trip. Many searches begin at the subject’s vehicle.
Planning a search and rescue effort starts with assessing the subject’s destination, probable route, and likely location. The best chance of rescue exists close to the place where you initially become lost. At a distance of 1km from your planned route, the search area is 3.1 square km. At 3 km from your route, it is 28 square km and at 10 km it is 314 square km! Therefore, if you stick to your trip plan, and are near your intended route, your chances of being found are good.