This year, 12 people have already been rescued after getting lost in a forest or swamp, according to data of the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) - this is less than in the same period last year, but such rescue efforts are often expensive and time-consuming to mount and involve using resources that might be better employed elsewhere.
The VUGD is therefore advising foragers that before going to the forest, they should prepare properly, while if they do get lost, they should not panic and make the situation worse. The VUGD also emphasizes that you should wear bright and colorful clothes in the forest, and also make sure that your mobile phone is charged, as well as carrying water and food for energy. A flashlight, compass and whistle are also worth taking.
Kristaps Kolbergs, head of the Operational Management Department of VUGD, explained that with the start of mushroom and berry season, the service regularly receives calls for help about people lost in the forest.
"Such rescue operations are carried out together with the State Police, and the firemen and rescuers will most often sound the siren of the truck and, in the dark, also the lights to indicate to people in which direction the exit from the forest is located. They should listen carefully and, upon hearing it, go in the direction of the sound. If necessary, we will search for the lost person by inspecting the area from above with a drone, which is also equipped with a thermal camera," he explained.
Kolbergs added that how quickly a person can be found and rescued is often determined by whether they have a charged mobile phone with them.
"If you are lost in the forest, the first and only call should be to the phone number 112. Most likely, the dispatcher will be able to determine your approximate location, but the rescuers will contact you to get you out of the forest as soon as possible. Calls to relatives or friends drain the phone battery and therefore, rescue operations can be complicated and prolonged," Kolbergs said.
VUGD tips to those heading into the forest
- Before leaving, inform your relatives about where you plan to pick mushrooms or berries and for how long.
- Choose bright colors for your clothes and headgear - this will help you to be noticed faster in the greenery of the forest.
- Do not go into the forest alone, so that the other person can help if necessary.
- Bring a fully charged cell phone to contact emergency services.
- Make sure your phone's location is turned on, which can be useful in case you get lost.
- Take a bottle of water and chocolate or energy bars.
- Remember your flashlight and whistle.
- Don't just look at the berries and mushroms – also observe your surroundings and keep track of where you are moving - road signs, power lines, significant trees, and other natural objects will help you establish your location.
If you realize you're lost, don't panic:
- Sit down, relax, try to orient yourself in the area and only then start the return journey.
- Do not try to start walking chaotically through the forest looking for a way back, because this can lead you to go even deeper into the forest.
- Try to hear what is around – if there is a highway, a road or a residential building nearby, then go there to orient yourself and get help if necessary.
- Consider using topographic apps such as Google Maps or a compass downloaded to your mobile phone to get your bearings.
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