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The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors
U.S. Army Africa
Vicenza, Italy

If you’re like me, you enjoy the smell of fresh air and nature. With warmer weather on its way, many of us can’t wait to head into the great outdoors for some rest, relaxation, adventure and restoration. Camping is one of my favorite ways to connect with nature. If that sounds like something you want to do, just remember that proper planning and preparation can help keep you and your family safe on that outdoor adventure.

No matter what level of camping comfort you enjoy, there are always risks and hazards. According to www.campsafe.org, on average, there are more than 30,000 camping-related injuries treated in emergency rooms each year, and doctors treat an additional 75,000. For a safer camping experience, here are some suggestions.

Before leaving the house
A safe and enjoyable camping trip begins with proper planning. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Before you leave the driveway, check the weather report and learn about security issues at your camp site. Be sure to bring along a supply kit that includes a first aid kit, compass or GPS, map, flashlight, blankets, batteries, food, clothes and medications. Make sure you know who to contact at the camp to report issues that may come up. Also tell family and friends what your plans are for your outing.

When it comes to communications, keep in mind that your cellphone may not get a signal in the woods. Because of this, some people carry a satellite phone while camping. Another useful communication tool is a personal locator beacon, which, when activated, sends out a personalized distress signal alerting rescue authorities in the event of an emergency. While these electronic devices are useful in an emergency, they are no substitute for proper preparation.

Another major area of preparedness consideration is packing the proper gear for the trip. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following checklist to help you pack for success:

• Adequate bedding/sleeping bag and extra blankets
• Light-weight, light-colored clothing, including long sleeves and pants
• Tent and plastic ground cloth
• Insect repellent containing DEET for skin
• Permethrin insect repellent for clothing
• Broad-spectrum sunscreen and lipscreen with SPF 15 or higher
• Wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
• Healthy on-the-go snacks and other food
• Water and other alcohol-free and sugar-free fluids
• Insulated cooler
• Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Life jacket, helmet, and other protective gear
• First-aid kit
• Compass or GPS
• Map
• Flashlights
• Extra batteries
• Sturdy shoes
• Extra set of clothes
• Medical records, including vaccinations; insect, food, plant and other allergies; diseases and conditions; medicines, dosing schedules and storage instructions; emergency contacts; and activities your doctor or nurse says to avoid

At the campsite
Before setting up your camp, do a survey of your site. Look for hazards such as poison ivy, bees and ant mounds. There may be sharp objects in the area such as broken glass, sharp sticks and stones that may need to be moved. If you decide to build a campfire, do it safely. Follow these tips to ensure you enjoy those s’mores safely.

• Build or use a campfire pit away from overhanging tree branches.
• Make sure the fire has a metal fire ring or is encircled with rocks.
• Keep a bucket of water and shovel nearby.
• Never leave a campfire unattended and be sure to put out your campfire completely before you leave.
• Use fireproof cooking equipment.

Be sure to pack healthy and nutritious food and snacks on your camping trip. Following a few easy and necessary precautions will keep your food safe. Pack foods in tight, waterproof bags or containers. Keep foods in an insulated cooler. When handling any food, ensure everyone washes their hands, and clean preparation and eating surfaces often. Use hand sanitizer if water is not available. Separating raw foods from cooked foods will reduce the possibility of cross contamination. Cook all foods to proper temperatures (e.g., ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F) and chill foods promptly when storing leftovers. To help prevent a heat-related illness during hot days, drink plenty of alcohol-free and sugar-free fluids. Remember, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.

Also be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can cause illness or death in people and pets. Never use fuel-burning equipment such as gas stoves, heaters, lanterns and charcoal grills inside a tent, camper or other enclosed shelter. Using fuel-burning equipment in enclosures can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up. Everyone should bring adequate bedding and clothing and should consume extra calories and fluids during the outing to prevent hypothermia (a dangerous loss of body warmth that can cause death) which is a safe alternative to fuel-burning appliances to supply heat. Using a plastic ground cloth under your tent will help keep you dry.

Avoid water-related illness and injury
A camping experience often includes playing in and around the water. To help protect yourself and your fellow campers from illness, don’t swim if you have diarrhea and don’t swallow the water you swim in. Never swim alone and, if feasible, take a shower before and after swimming. If you plan to ride in a boat, canoe or other water vehicle, be sure to wear a life jacket. Always avoid alcohol when participating in water sports.

On the trail
Camping is a great opportunity to get some physical activity. Do things to keep you active during your trip such as walking, hiking, biking or swimming. Be sure to bring protective gear, including helmets, sturdy shoes and life jackets. Avoid poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Know your limits, and take steps to avoid injury during activities. Never hike alone and watch kids closely. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause skin cancer, premature aging and cataracts, even on cloudy days. Use a broad-spectrum (against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen and lipscreen with at least SPF 15. Cover up with layers of light-weight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and seek shade when the sun’s rays are strongest. Take regular rest breaks in shady areas, which can protect you from getting too much sun.

Even if you only intend on being out for a short time, plan your trip carefully and take along some basic supplies. Know what type of terrain you will be traversing and the day’s weather report. If you do get lost, keep calm. Take out your map and find some landmarks to reference your location. Stay put after dark or if you happen to get injured or become fatigued. Follow streams or drainages as a last option, as they often lead to a trail or road.

Some wild animals carry diseases that are dangerous to people, including rabies. Keep a safe distance and avoid touching, feeding and getting near wild animals. Instead, enjoy watching them from a safe distance in their natural surroundings. Keep foods stored in sealed containers and out of the reach of animals. Make sure your family pets are vaccinated and watch them closely. Also ensure they have plenty of water, food and shelter, and don’t let them interact with wildlife.

Mosquitoes, ticks and other biting insects can cause certain diseases such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. To help fight the bite, apply insect repellent containing DEET to clothes and exposed skin. Apply the insect repellent permethrin to clothes to help keep ticks from attaching to them. Be sure to follow directions on the package. Wear long sleeves, pants and other light-colored clothing to help prevent and spot ticks more easily. Check both people and animals for ticks daily, and remove them promptly.

Packing up to go home
After you have packed up, look where you have camped and cooked. Make sure that the area is clean. Look at it as if you are staying in someone’s house. How would you want that bedroom to look? Treat nature the same way and leave it for the next family to enjoy.

Arriving back at home
The trip is not a success until you all get home safe and sound in good health. Make a plan for when you return to check for ticks, poison ivy and other problems that may have cropped up during the trip. Keep the fun in camping. Be sure to take the necessary safety precautions and enjoy the adventure.

  • 1 March 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 13251
  • Comments: 0