ST. GEORGE, Utah - Search and rescue volunteers in Washington County are having a busy year. Already the team has responded to 51 calls for help, and guides say a reliance on technology may be one reason.
FOX 13 News first reported on the increase in calls in March, and the 24 calls for help between that first report and this one means that with more than half a year to go, the county has already exceeded last year's total of 44 calls for help.
The rescues have been spread throughout the county; Kolob Mountain, Warner Valley and Snow Canyon are some of the hot spots. Most recently, crews rescued a couple that got lost on the Red Mountain Trail. The pair was using a photocopied map and lost the trail.
“I don’t know if it’s the weather, I don’t know if it's just the area is becoming more popular, I’m not sure why we’re having so many searches, but I know we’re responding to every one,” said Darrell Cashin, who is a Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Liaison.
The Washington County Search and Rescue team is averaging three to four rescues each week, which is pushing volunteer crews to their limit. Cashin said several of those rescues could have been avoided with a little more research.
“You need to know the area well,” Cashin said. “If you can actually talk to people who have hiked that particular area, or that hike you’re wanting to do, you get a better idea of what’s happening now versus than when the map was made two, or three--or five years ago.”
Paragon Adventures guide David Ward said one possible explanation is that people are relying too much on modern technology, and not enough on a simple map and compass.
“Your cell phone doesn’t always work out there,” Ward said. “So you do need to know where you are, and tell people where you’re going so they can rescue you if you’re not back.”
Beyond just knowing the terrain, guides say it’s important to make sure you have enough equipment if you do get stranded. That includes food, water and in many cases extra clothing. Search and rescue coordinators say if you do get lost, don’t be afraid to call for help.