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Sharp increase in Utah search and rescue calls may be coronavirus-related

Posted at 12:41 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 14:41:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah County's volunteer search and rescue crews have seen a 37 percent increase in calls this year, likely due to more people venturing outside as cities shut down due to the coronavirus.

“We’ll have people who either get lost or they get injured in an area where they don’t have a lot of experience or they don’t plan well enough for the activity they are going to engage in and that might be hiking, it might be snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing or something like that," said Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff's Office.

In 2020, Utah County's search and rescue crews responded to 150 calls. Normally, they respond to about 110 calls each year. Sgt. Cannon thinks this year's increase in search and rescue calls is likely due to more people exploring the outdoors this year and not being prepared.

“Inexperience is certainly something that has contributed to that, where people go to an area and they think 'oh, this is just an easy little day hike' and four or five hours later, when they only plan on being gone a couple of hours, they’re either out of food and water and they get dehydrated or they get halfway through their activity and realize 'I don’t have the right kind of shoes'," Cannon said.

Utah County's Stewart Falls, near Sundance, saw the most search and rescue requests this year. Search and rescue crews were called to the area 25 times in 2020.

"When you’re at [a higher] altitude and it may be hot weather, in the summertime especially, they get there and they get dehydrated or they just get sick on the trail and end up needing our help coming down. They’re not injured. They’ve just gotten ill," Cannon said.

Cannon recommends bringing extra food, water, a flashlight, a jacket and socks and shoes in case you get stuck in a sticky situation and need to spend more time outdoors than originally planned.