When/How to Call for Help

In Case of Emergency, Dial 911

When/How to Call for Help

When to call for help. “911, What is your emergency?”

Whether in town, on a local trail or in the wilderness, an emergency is a situation where help is needed. If unsure about whether your situation is an emergency, call 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 call taker can determine if you need emergency assistance and can route your call for the appropriate response.  

Search and Rescue

Search and Rescue teams are trained emergency workers called upon by the county sheriff to respond to a variety of incidents. Depending on circumstances and location, sheriff deputies, public safety officers and fire/rescue emergency teams also respond to SAR aid calls.

Help us help you.

When an accident or injury occurs, or someone becomes lost, the first course of action is “STOP”: Stop; Think; Observe; Plan. Stay put; stay calm; take stock of the situation and decide on a plan of action. 

Examples of emergency situations appropriate for 9-1-1

If you or another person is injured or ill   

  • Urgent medical aid for conditions such as airway or breathing problems, uncontrolled bleeding, head injury, stroke, seizure, or trauma
  • The ill or injured person is not mobile or able to walk
  • Inability to safely and reasonably render aid or complete a self-rescue
  • Unable to make reasonable progress when trying to get an ill or injured person back to the trailhead (consider the type of injury, hours of daylight, terrain and weather)


If you are lost or off-route and don’t know what to do   

  • If you’re in a safe place, stay where you are  
  • If you’re not in a safe place, get to the safest place you can
  • In some cases, SAR may be able to offer some assistance over the phone to assist people in finding their location or a way out of dangerous terrain.


If a friend or family member has not returned from an outdoor excursion

  • They sent a text to you that they need help
  • They left a trip plan, have not returned at the agreed time, and can’t be located or contacted
  • They did not leave a trip plan but are considered overdue and can’t be contacted 


If a child or at-risk adult wanders away or becomes separated from care providers

  • A child is lost or missing in urban, rural, or wilderness areas
  • An adult with dementia or other condition who may not be safe alone can’t be located


How to call for help. See link: “Be Phone Smart

  • Call 9-1-1.  
  • Text to 911 or text a friend to call 9-1-1.  A text may go through when voice calls won’t.
  • Depending on your location, you may be able to get cell text or voice service by moving up or down the trail or hiking out to a trailhead.
  • Activate a personal locator or satellite beacon.


Don’t wait. In some cases, waiting to call 9-1-1 can make a situation worse

  • Foul weather can lead to hypothermia, slippery surfaces, or create access issues
  • Daylight can have a big impact on how quickly rescuers can get to you and under what conditions
  • Time can become a major factor when lost or injured