North Shore Rescue not in favour of hikers posting #TrailheadSelfie

Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteer’s idea spurs discussion of backcountry safety

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      The “trailhead selfie”, an idea promoted by a veteran volunteer with Coquitlam Search and Rescue, has led another search-and-rescue team in the Vancouver area to express concerns.

      Curtis Jones, a member of North Shore Rescue, told the Georgia Straight that his team believes these social-media posts—which include a self-portrait and text describing, at a minimum, the hiker’s location and destination, as well as how long they expect to be out—could lead to hikers feeling a “false sense of security” in the backcountry.

      According to Jones, there’s a risk that tech-savvy youth will adopt the trailhead selfie as a replacement for informing a responsible person about their plans.

      “They may do it instead of telling someone where they’re going,” Jones said by phone. “It doesn’t really solve a lot of the problems that we’ve been facing.”

      NSR sees several problems with trailhead selfies. One for thing, posts sent to the masses on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could lead to both the non-reporting and over-reporting of missing hikers. As well, some trailheads are out of cellphone range, and a selfie might fail to post or be hidden behind privacy settings.

      Jones noted that NSR does check the social-media accounts of missing hikers after receiving a report.

      But he stressed that a trailhead selfie is “not a viable alternative” to basic safety precautions, but an “extra way down the list of things you should do”.

      “What it comes down to is a selfie at a trailhead is not always indicative of where a person eventually ends up on many trails,” Jones said. “When you have large networks with many entrances and exits, it could be a pretty massive search area. I think, in general, the base line for us is we will use whatever investigative tools that are at our disposal, but we see no value in proposing trailhead selfies in relation to what should be the gold standard—and that’s telling someone responsible where you are going, when to expect you back, and carrying the 10 essentials.”

      Earlier this week, Michael Coyle, a search-and-rescue manager for Coquitlam SAR, told the Straight that he hopes the trailhead selfie will catch on and, consequently, raise awareness of the importance of hikers telling people where they are headed.

      Coyle asserted that hikers should always complete a trip plan—sample forms are available on the AdventureSmart website—and leave it with a friend or family member.

      “You really should be filing a trip plan, and you should be taking the 10 essentials with you, and you should be prepared for your pursuit,” he said at the time. “But if you do nothing else, at least tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back, so that we have just a tiny bit of information on what you’re up to.”

      In a February blog post, Coyle pointed out some caveats regarding the trailhead selfie.

      “I shouldn’t have to say this, but SAR do not monitor social media. The advice here is that IF you’re reported missing by your friends or family, we will have a little bit of extra information to assist us,” Coyle wrote.

      “No system is fool proof, posting a photo doesn’t replace any other preparatory activities; filing a trip plan, taking the 10 essentials are still part of backcountry common sense. Use the #TrailheadSelfie to remind yourself to be proud of your ability to plan for your trip.”

      Jones’s message to hikers is simple.

      “Pick up your phone, call your friend, family, neighbour, someone and give them a very brief description or a very in-depth description of where you’re going and when to expect you back,” Jones said. “And tell them, if you aren’t back by that time, to call the police.”



      Trailhead selfies

      Mar 13, 2015 at 3:52pm

      They are a nice compliment but should not be a replacement for being prepared. Too many people sauntering onto the North Shore Mountains like they are the seawall. Flip-flops, no water, no snack, no pack, no matches, no flashllight, no preparation. And as NSR says, some people don't realize how spotty the cell phone coverage can be. People need to be prepared and know what they are getting into before they leave and always make sure someone knows you are there.


      Mar 13, 2015 at 4:51pm

      Here's an idea. If you file a proper trip plan, you don't need to do anything else. This debate is distracting and confusing and the trailhead selfie is irrelevant if hiker's just do as the should.

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      Mar 13, 2015 at 4:56pm

      This is so stupid. Everyone gets STOP DROP AND ROLL if your clothing should catch fire. This is trailhead selfie debate is akin to suggesting we should also 'Jump Twice' before Stop Dropping and Rolling.

      Why would you do that? It would be just plain irresponsible...much like this suggestion.

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      Jason B

      Mar 13, 2015 at 5:08pm

      As a member of a BC SAR team, I can only think of a handful of circumstances when a selfie would have helped us in the search. All those circumstances were recovery operations. Overall I think that the risks of confusion way outweigh the benefits. Really wish this had been discussed provincially before being endorsed by one search and rescue member.


      Mar 13, 2015 at 5:38pm

      Having read both articles (this one and the one it references), the message here seems to be that one S&R group is worried about the effect of advice given by another S&R group. No?

      The message should be, do not rely on a trailhead selfie in place of proper preparation (trip plan created and communicated, having the correct gear, etc.).

      I don't see any message that the selfie itself is a problem?

      Very confusing (and inaccurate) article title...

      jeremy dangerhouse

      Mar 14, 2015 at 5:55am

      Have to agree with Cole on every point. Over and over we demonstrate our eagerness for the short cut, and then call unfortunate results an accident. Lack of preparedness is not an accident, it's nature's way of culling the herd.

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      M. Reid

      Mar 14, 2015 at 7:57am

      What are the "10 essentials"?


      Mar 14, 2015 at 8:05am

      I agree with the North Shore Rescue thinking. The last thing needed is for the ill prepared idiots (not to be confused with the well prepared citizens who just happen to have misfortune) to have any more sense of security.

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      Jim D

      Mar 14, 2015 at 9:35am

      I don't get the criticisms. The North Shore Rescue blog says that the trailhead selfie is no substitute for leaving a detailed trip plan and taking the 10 essentials. Isn't that *exactly* what was originally said? Here are 2 scenarios: Scenario 1: You tell someone where you are going but for whatever reason you change your plans. Scenario 2: You forget to tell anyone where you are going. In both cases you have cell reception. So is it better to post a trailhead selfie or not? If you said 'yes' then I think you agree with the original proposal. (And why on earth would you say 'no' in such situations?) We live in an imperfect world and, in the case of SAR, any extra information is useful.

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