If your child becomes lost in the woods, does he or she know what to do to survive?
Mike Taylor who teaches the Youth Education for Survival (YES) program, sponsored by the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue is prepared to answer that question and supply the resources for survival.
Taylor was part of the search team dispatched to the area south of Flagstaff last week to look for the two Mesa boys who were lost in the freezing temperatures.
"Had they received the YES training, we would have found them within a few hours," Taylor said. "There were times they heard the ATV's and helicopters, but we could not hear or see them."
The YES program teaches nine rules for survival. They include:
1. Stay together. Do not separate, whether you're with a friend or pet.
The reason for this rule is body heat and safety. Cuddling up to a large dog or friend will help you stay warm. If two people separate, the chances of finding both of them are greatly reduced. If you're with a dog, do not let it run loose, it can help you more by staying close and providing heat and companionship.
2. Stay in one place or area. Do not wander.
If you wander, it's harder to find you. People looking for you move very slowly while searching for clues. If you are out front running along, they won't be able to catch up.
3. Keep warm.
This means to keep warm with the clothes you are wearing. NEVER take any clothes off. Cover up all the exposed skin you can. If you are wearing a sweater or jacket, keep it closed. Watch out for shoe laces. Branches have a tricky way of undoing them. The most important part of your clothing is a hat or something that covers your head. Over 70 percent of all your body heat escapes through your head.
4. Find a cozy waiting place, not a hiding place.
A cozy waiting place means, a warm place out of the wind and rain, but not a place where searchers can't see you. Under a large tree near a large opening is a good place. During lightning storms, use a small tree.
5. Put out something bright.
Put out something bright or make something to tell people searching for you where you are. Make a flag using what you have. Do not take off any clothes to do so. White paper, money, hair ribbons, a strip from an orange piece of plastic or cloth are some suggestions. In a clearing, spell the word "Help" or "SOS", make an X or arrow using rocks or sticks or both. Do anything to attract attention.
6. Look bigger for searchers.
If you hear someone coming go to your clearing place and call. If it is an aircraft you hear, lie down so the pilot has a bigger target to look at. Then wave with both arms and legs as if you were making a snow angel.
7. Use the forest to keep warm.
Being in direct contact with the ground for any length of time is dangerous. The cold ground can rob precious body heat from you. Build a mattress using available materials such as branches, moss, leaves, pine needles, etc. This mattress should be as thick as the mattress you sleep on at home. After the mattress is completed, gather the same amount, or more, of the same material and use it for the blankets. This is called a survival bed.
8. Do not eat anything you are not sure of.
Do not eat any berries, mushrooms or anything else unless you are 100 percent sure what they are. Being hungry is not too bad of a feeling compared with being violently sick. You can go without food for a long time, but you can't go without water.
9. Stay away from rivers and lakes.
You must have drinking water to survive, but in the wilderness, ground water is not always safe. If in doubt, do not drink it. Try to form the habit of carrying your own. One source of safe water can be found on leaves in the form of dew.
These are just some of the tips your children will learn if they attend a YES program.
Taylor also will show children, with the help of parents, how they can put together a child survival kit that will fit into a fanny pack to be worn while in the woods.
Items in the survival kit include trail mix, a whistle, small signal flag, a reflector for sending signals, a large bright-colored garbage bag to be used as a poncho and a zip-lock sandwich bag which can be used as a cup for drinking water.
"All of these items can be purchased for under $20," Taylor said.
Taylor also suggests that in addition to making the survival kit a part of your child's dress while in the woods, parents dress their children in bright clothes.
"The boys who were lost near Flagstaff were virtually invisible in the forest," Taylor said. "They had on clothes that blended in and made it impossible to see them."
Tonto Rim and the Gila County Trail Alliance will be presenting the YES program to all interested youth Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. (location to be announced).
The one-hour program is free and is recommended for youth ages six to 17.