Paddlers who embark on any outing, but especially an overnighter, are always told the same thing.

File a float plan.

It lists things like who is on the trip, what the canoes or kayaks they’re in look like, where and when they got on the water, where and when they expect to get off, cell phone numbers for those on the trip and more. It also details the first aid and survival equipment paddlers packed.

The idea behind such a plan is to make it easier for rescuers. If something goes wrong enough that they need to be called out, they know how many people they’re looking for, and where, and what kind of shape they might conceivably be in.

That’s why it’s important to leave the plan with a responsible person at home, someone not going on the trip.

If a boater doesn’t check in on time at the supposed end of his or her trip, that person at home can alert the authorities to what might be trouble.

It's not just paddlers, though. Hikers who are doing overnighters are usually encouraged to file similar plans, and for the same reasons.

But say you’re that person at home, the one to whom the float or hike plan as entrusted.

Who do you call? When do you call? And what do you say?

We hear all the time about planning to survive if you’re the victim of an accident. But what if you’re the person responsible for getting help for someone lost outdoors?

Well, don’t wait. If a boater was to report in when they got off the water, and you haven’t heard from them in a reasonable amount of time, call for help. It’s better to be proactive than not.

You’ll need to know what area the boater or boaters are – or were supposed to be – in. Call 911 or state or local police for that locale.

Tell authorities whether the person is known to be missing or is just overdue.

Recite to them details from the float plan, down to the vehicle the boater took to the launch spot, so rescuers have as much information as possible. No detail is too small.

Be sure to give the police your number, and then stay by that phone. Someone needs to be available in case searchers call back for more information.

And if you hear from the boaters – because they got off the water late or just remembered to call – tell authorities that, too. Don’t risk their safety having them search for someone who’s back home.

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