- Published on January 6, 2011
- Written by DEIDRICH TOWNE, CBCP
We talked about how the climb would go, where to stop and head back down, what would be encountered, including some steep cliffs difficult to climb down, and alternatives to stay safe. The whole trip was to take about an hour and a half and then we would leave and head back to the lodge for breakfast. This location is six miles off the paved roads, with eight inches of snow on the ground and some very wild territory. For the next hour and a half I had a wonderful wilderness experience – sighting an owl, surprising a couple of grouse, seeing three does, and an ermine almost invisible in the snow. It was all a real pleasure to watch.
I started my return to the trailhead at 10:30 a.m. and anticipated my cousin’s son to meet me there. He was late, but I knew he’d be OK. He had a compass, map, food, and water. He also carried a GPS, a radio, flashlight, and a lighter ... just in case.
We all make plans, and sometimes we follow them exactly and occasionally execute them poorly. In this case, it was the latter. As I waited, I started to formulate a response plan. (Sorry, but it’s hard to change one’s stripes). I was working from a point in the future (dark), back to when I would declare an incident.
How long do you wait when you are out of cell phone coverage, miles from the highway, and are the only responder at this point? My declaration time was 2 p.m., which would be five hours since I had last seen the young man and two-and-a-half hours before dark.
I had been traveling up and down the logging road and advised those I met (very few) of the circumstances. I was looking for a sighting, footprints, blaring the horn, whistling, shouts, anything that might give me a clue as to his location. No response. I declared at 2 p.m. and headed for the highway.
On the way I was able to get a call out to my wife (alert), advise her of the situation, what my response plan included, and headed out to the lodge.
I’ll have mercy on you and get to my point. I left messages and grabbed some equipment and headed back to the trailhead. It was over an hour later at 3:15 p.m. when I saw this figure sprawled across the logging road, and as I approached, it moved. It is my cousin’s son! He was whipped but out before dark.
As we are all inclined to do, we had a lessons-learned discussion as I slowly drove away from Wheeler Mountain. He didn’t follow the plan. He lost his hat, gloves, and seat. The batteries went dead in his radio and GPS. He was sweating so hard his map became unreadable.
In the end, he was out of the woods, shaken, but safe.
A night in the mountains – or anywhere in freezing temperatures – can be fatal. (There was one of those the following weekend.) We learned that even slight changes in the plans we make can have serious consequences when the situation changes. Snow on the ground, few resources, impending darkness, and fear all turn against you in the decision-making process. That is also the norm in any incident. We both learned a lot during this experience, and I’m sure we’ll both be better prepared for our next outing.
I bring this up as a reminder of what is changing around us as we move through the holidays and the change of seasons. Make sure you have the resources you will need in your home and car for you, your family, and even co-workers.
To close, I’ll mention three things PPBI is doing in support of our mission. First, we are asking for nominations for the PPBI Best Practices Award. If you know of a company (entity) or individual who would qualify through the deed of gift for this award as described in previous articles, please e-mail them to my attention for consideration.
Second, at DRJ Spring World in Orlando, Fla., PPBI has been asked to present their “Incident Management Plan Maturity Model” (SWS-4), Sunday, March 27, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Participants will learn to use the BCP Audit checklist and the Incident Management Plan Maturity Model developed by PPBI. Exposure to the practical experience of the instructors in addition to recognized industry standards in measuring the maturity of your plans benefits both the public and private sectors. David Ziev, the PPBI training director, will be joined by Ken Schroeder and me to facilitate this practical workshop.
Third, if you need any help with partnerships, please take a look at the post-conference course “Secrets to Building Successful Private/Public Relationships,” that PPBI will also offer during the DRJ Spring World. This course will be held Wednesday, March 30, 1:30-4:30 p.m. and facilitated again by Ziev, Schroeder, and me. It is a fast-paced, half-day session focused on the actions both private businesses and public agencies have taken to build complementary relationships that work in both good times and disaster situations.
Plan safely and don’t forget to partner with PPBI at www.ppbi.org.
Deidrich Towne, CBCP, has more than 39 years experience in information technology committed to infrastructure management, business continuity planning, disaster recovery and incident management in the areas of consulting, business process re-design, project management, project implementation, documentation, exercise design, execution and training. He has transitioned from a business and industry first responder role to assist clients in assessing, designing and implementing recovery solutions for their data centers, networks and mission critical business processes.