A small map and kit may help people from getting lost in the big woods of Bath County

When someone gets lost in the woods in our area, search and rescue missions are launched that bring in local and state personnel to help.  That’s a big undertaking and the Bath County Local Emergency Planning Committee heard about an idea at its November meeting that might help people from getting lost to begin with or might help rescuers find someone more easily.

Andy Seabolt is Bath County’s Emergency Services Coordinator.

“It’s a knee jerk reaction,” says Seabolt.  “We’ve had two search and rescues and that was before rifle season even started.  A state trooper came to me and said ‘Andy, what can we do to curb this?’  It was his idea to create a handout with a map with some words on it, so essentially we’ve done that.  It’s not real pretty, it’s something I’ve created, but it’s an overview map of the county with some topographical data on it and on the other side of the map we have information.  What to do when planning your trip, what you should take with you, what critical supplies you need and also what for you to do if you become lost.”

Seabolt says the development of this outdoor safety program will benefit everyone.  It’s not just aimed at people who visit Bath County.

“We had two search and rescue missions,” says Seabolt.  “One was a local resident that took a nap and woke up in unfamiliar surroundings because it was dark.  The other person was an out of towner, however he was familiar with the area, had been hunting there for a bunch of years.  He got turned around as well in the dark and lost his way.”

Seabolt says the plan is to reach out to hunters this year by giving safety presentations and handing out the maps.  He says they got started with the idea late this year, but hopes to offer more next year.

“We would like to expand out the program to include possibly a little flashlight, a little whistle with a compass, just some basic stuff,” says Seabolt.  “Seal it up in a little small pouch that folks are likely to actually take with them in the woods.”

Seabolt said since Bath County is a tourism destination, hikers and campers as well as hunters could benefit from the kits.

“It costs approximately five to six dollars per kit,” says Seabolt.  “And if we look at maybe handing out a hundred or a hundred fifty of the kits, so roughly between $500 and a $1,000 worth of kits.   Initially it does sound like quite a bit of money.  However when you start thinking about what does one search and rescue mission cost.  One search and rescue mission, not only does it include between five and eight deputies, most times on overtime, you also have extra dispatchers who have to come to work, you have our fire and rescue folks, which are 100% volunteer.   If we can curb just one search and rescue mission then that price for the entire project is worth it.   But when you start adding in the cost on the state level, just to start up a state police helicopter is about $2,000.  Not to mention they have to have their people on scene and then other state resources like the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, they start sending their volunteer folks.  True they’re volunteer, but that’s also time and money.”

And Seabolt’s advice for anyone who is lost?  Stay warm, stay dry, stay put and if you see a helicopter conducting a search, if you have a flashlight shine it straight up.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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