Staying safe while hiking: a conversation with a park ranger

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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA)- According to Park Ranger Bryn Harmer, who is the park manager at Jones Gap State Park, dozens of hikers go missing every year in South Carolina.

7News reporter Anne Maxwell caught up with Ranger Harmer Tuesday for some hiking safety tips. Note: the interview has been edited for length and clarity.

AM: Ranger, what is the first thing you need to know before you leave the house?

BH: You want to make sure you make a plan: where you’re planning on going, what trail you’re planning on hiking. Check that with the park to make sure that the information is accurate. And then leave that information with somebody that is not going into the woods with you so that we have somebody to contact in case of an emergency.

AM: Why are [hiker registration forms] so important?

BH: Well, that gives us a tremendous amount of information. It tells us…who is hiking, where you intend to hike. It also tells us what time you entered the woods, so that lets us know how far you possibly could have hiked, and then it also has the emergency contact information.

AM: Every once in awhile we hear about a hiker going missing. How often does that happen?

BH: More than you think. We here at the park do sometimes up to 40 search and rescues a year. All of the trails here in the park are blazed with a specific color. We call this a trailblaze, so…make sure you know what color you’re supposed to be on. And keep following that color.

AM: Ranger Harmer, if you do get lost, what should you do?

BH: The most important thing is that you stop moving. You would want to find a rock or a tree stump or something like this, and you want to sit down and wait. You don’t want to keep moving. That makes it much harder for us to find you. And then if you do have a cellphone, you can actually text 911 here in Greenville county. And you can tell them…who you are, what park you were at, and then, most importantly, is the color blaze that you last saw before you went missing.

AM: And my understanding is even if you can’t get a cellphone signal out to call, you can still text 911?

BH: Correct. Yes, you can.

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