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Rescue squads promote missing children program

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By Special to The Banner

“Hug-a-tree” to save search time and lives, a simple but effective program to speed searches for lost or missing persons is being employed by many Kentucky Rescue squads.

With only a few more weeks of school and the weather changing to the outdoor type weather we in Trimble County like, the Trimble County Emergency Search Unit would like to share a few simple rules to follow when your family is picnicking, hiking or camping.

First, talk with your children about getting lost or separated from the rest of the family. Let them know you aren’t angry. Assure them there will be a happy reunion waiting for them when they are returned and they should help searchers find them by following the Hug-a-Tree rules.

What is Hug-a-Tree? When someone realizes he is lost, he simply should stop and hug a tree. This literally means that everyone should learn to hug the nearest tree and children should be taught even to talk to the tree for reassurance. Search experts say that this may seem an odd thing to do, but it can calm the person and help control the panic that could set in when he realizes he is “lost.”

Before you leave on a trip, take five minutes and have each child step on a piece of fresh aluminum fail placed over a soft surface such as a rug or folded towel. The child should be wearing the same shoes they will wear that day. Mark the foil with the child’s name. With this print, rescue squad trackers can separate the child’s track from the hundreds of other footprints in the area. The correct footprints will tell the searchers the direction of the travel.

Each member of the group should carry a large plastic bag and a whistle. Yellow or orange bags are the best because of their visibility. Adults make an opening the size of each person’s face on one side of the bag near the closed end. Then show the children how to get inside the bag with their face uncovered. This will help keep them dry or warm, which can be a lifesaver. The whistle, used to signal searchers, can be heard at a much great distance than a voice and will not exhaust the child or harm the vocal cords. Both the plastic bag and whistle can fit easily in a jacket or pants pocket.

Make yourself big: searchers will find a lost person sooner who is easy to see. Campers and hikers should always wear bright clothing-yellows, reds, oranges and hot pinks are best. If a person becomes lost, the best idea is to pick a tree to hug near a small clearing. Hearing an airplane or helicopter, the lost person can assist searchers in the air by lying flat on the ground so the body makes a larger image, and if physically able, make a large cross or “SOS” out of branches or rocks, or write in large letters in the dirt.

Fear is the worst problem for anyone lost, so children should be taught to remember that there are no fierce animals in Kentucky woods anymore. Teach children not to fear “lions, tigers and bears,” because there aren’t any. Hearing any kind of noises, the lost person should either yell loudly or blow the whistle-if it is a forest animal it will go away. If the noise is made by searchers, or search dogs, the lost person will be found.

Remember that people will search for you! Children as well as adults should be taught to realize if they become lost they should “hug-a-tree,” and stay put. Although the searchers may be ‘strangers,’ the lost person has no need to be afraid. There will be as many people searching as the situation requires. The search will continue until lost persons are found.

Further information and free public programs on Hug-A-Tree are available from the state Division of Disaster and Emergency Services, Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort.