SPANISH FORK, Utah — It is only the start of June, and Lt. Wally Perschon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team said crews are already busier than they were last year — and last year they saw a 50 percent increase in rescues.
It seems a lot of people took up new hobbies and wanted to get outdoors during the pandemic, he said.
“They want to get out and let’s do something that we haven’t done before. So, a lot of them aren’t prepared,” said Perschon.
Most of the rescues occur in the mountains, Lt. Perschon said. The biggest mistake people make is going out alone.
“They don’t understand the significance when an ambulance can roll up and get you versus in the backcountry where you are far away from where an ambulance can get you and it is going to be that delayed time in getting help that could cost you your life,” Lt. Perschon said.
Utah Co. Search and Rescue responded to 50% more calls last year than the year before. Now, Lt. Wally Perschon says they are expecting even more calls this year. Biggest mistake he sees people make? Going alone. @fox13 @UCSO pic.twitter.com/cLHcrvJsEj— Sydney Glenn (@SydneyGlennTV) June 7, 2021
Utah State Parks also hit a record last year, with a 33 percent increase in visitors, a spokesperson for the parks said. That trend is expected to continue, Devan Chavez said; but with more visitors comes more injuries.
“My biggest fear is that we see a dramatic increase in injuries or search and rescues,” he said.
It is important people are prepared and educated before they engage in outdoor activities, Lt. Perschon said. This also includes checking the weather.
“When the weather changes, it changes so fast. It goes from glass to here comes a storm or microburst and you’ve got 5,7,10-foot swells out there,” he said.
The drought also plays a role in concerns over water safety, Chavez said.
“Especially in a years like this where it is a drought year where the water surface area is decreasing, it means there is less boating area for a lot more people which means you got to be cognizant of speed and proximity,” he said.
So, why the increase? Lt. Perschon says many people started recreating last year who weren’t prepared. Also, more people not only are moving to Utah but visiting. Plus, hikes and different outdoor activities are publicized more on social media and apps etc. @fox13 pic.twitter.com/mC32EgnwYV— Sydney Glenn (@SydneyGlennTV) June 7, 2021
The biggest challenge with the increased number of calls is staffing, Lt. Perschon said.
“We will have more than one call going at once. We’ve had two and three and we get our manpower stretched and resources stretched in what we need to make a difference when it’s serious,” he said.
Search and rescue operations wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers and sponsors who help with equipment, Lt. Perschon said.