Lost And Found

Students study survival skills


Tiffany Reigh, a third-grade student in Jacque LeSueur's class at Frontier Elementary School, put a garbage bag over her head and pulled it down over her body. Only her face peeked out from a hole near the top of the bag.

"That's the only time you put a plastic bag on your head," said Les Hulse, one of three volunteers with the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue team who visited LeSueur's classroom Friday.

The men were there to teach the children how to survive in the wilderness through their "Youth Education for Survival" program.

Hulse told the students that if Tiffany was lost in the woods and it was cold or raining, the large garbage bag would help keep her warm and dry.

"The water hits and she stays dry and she stays warm," he said.

Fred Bernesche added, "You can also put tree branches over you and hang orange over it so we can find you. And if you're looking for us, we're wearing orange."

While Hulse and Bernesche talked to the students about finding shelter in the woods, a third member of team, Jim Martin, stood by the door of the classroom with Ruby, the group's nationally certified search and rescue dog, a 3-year-old 100-pound bloodhound.

Martin said Ruby has found 14 people and tracked one run-away boy 38 miles, traveling much of the distance in a police cruiser.

"We let her out at intersections," he said. "We found the boy asleep on a park bench 38 miles away."

The students found it hard to believe that water in the woods is dangerous to drink.

One boy asked, "If you're dying of thirst can you drink any of the water in the woods?"

"It's one thing to be lost," Martin said, "but to be lost and sick is pretty hard."

Bernesche told them not to eat berries or mushrooms in the woods.

"You can probably live a couple of weeks without any food, but not without water. Carry your water with you -- you don't want to drink from the rivers, lakes or streams. There are a lot of bacteria in the water."

"Wear a hat and a coat, carry food and water," Martin said.

He also told the students to take something orange with them in the woods, wear something orange and always travel with another person in the woods.

"Stay together," he said. "Separating is your first mistake. As you get a little older, I want you to learn how to use a compass and always carry a flashlight and a whistle. The whistle will carry a lot farther than your voice."

"And stay still -- don't move around," Hulse said. "If you start moving around, it's going to take a long time to find you."

The men showed the students how to wrap a piece of aluminum foil around a piece of cardboard to fashion a crude reflector, and how to form an arrow on the ground with rocks and tree branches.

"What's the most important thing you take in the woods?" Hulse asked.

"Water," the students said in unison.

And if you get lost, they said, remember to stay together, stay in one place, keep warm and always wear a hat.

Youth Education for Survival is a free program created and presented by members of Tonto Search and Rescue Squad and is offered to all schools and youth organizations.

For the past two years, Chapman Auto Center met the group's yearly operating expenses of $1,000. The squad is raising money for the purchase of a $5,000 digital projector to more effectively present the program. They have $1,900 toward the cost of this item, which was donated by Mogollon Health Alliance. Other sponsors are being sought. For information on the program, call Mike Taylor, commander of the squad, at 476-4947 or Patt Peters at 472-7457.

What to take into the woods

  • A zip lock sandwich bag to be used as a container or drinking cup;

• High-energy trail mix in a separate zip lock bag;

• A whistle to signal rescuers. Use three short blasts;

• An orange vest;

  • A reflector made of soft flexible material;

• A large, brightly colored garbage bag, which can be used as a poncho.

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