Your Gear Is Not Complete Without An Emergency Packet

Regular readers of this column know that I have stressed safety and preparedness several times. There’s good reason for that. When you’re off-road, especially several hours away from critical care, you have to be able to handle emergencies that may occur.

Previously I’ve touched on first aid kits and other gear. This time I’d like to cover another very important item, an emergency packet. As the name suggests, this is a packet of valuable information kept at your fingertips just in case something happens.

Emergencies are stressful situations. Common details like home phone numbers can be difficult to recall. An emergency packet becomes your go to source during difficult times.

If you are within cell range (or have a satellite phone) and have an emergency, by all means call 911. Not all situations are medical emergencies, of course. Your emergency packet contains other vital information that can help get you and your group out of a jam.

At a minimum the packet should contain the following information. Please note that certain details will change as you visit different areas.

  • A page of emergency numbers
  • Map(s) and directions to nearby hospitals, with phone numbers
  • Assessment forms for injuries and illness
  • First Aid & CPR booklets
  • Evacuation plans, including instructions regarding when and whether to transport out or call for evacuation
  • A page on vehicle recovery (safety reminders, planning steps)

Some phone numbers to list include:

  • Local sheriff’s department / police department
  • Park ranger of the recreation area you will be visiting
  • Federal Interagency at 909-383-5651. This is helpful if you’re on federal lands, such as Death Valley and Mojave Desert. It’s a central dispatch center. They’ll route your call accordingly.
  • Poison Control at 800-222-1222

Ham radio operators should retain a list of area 2 m and 70 cm repeater frequencies (and CTCSS tones), as well as the national calling frequencies (146.520 MHz and 446.000 MHz). Remember that those are simplex frequencies, so program your radio accordingly.

In addition to the contact information for area hospitals, I suggest developing a map showing possible route(s). Provide clear instructions on the map as well, so drivers don’t have to rely entirely on the lines or highlighter markings you’ve made. Review the area carefully, and note that there may be more than one hospital within range depending on where you are in your route.

Make several copies of these maps. The driver transporting someone out gets a copy, of course. But if you need to evac someone, family members can be given a map to help them find the hospital.

Speaking of transporting, make sure to send at least two vehicles. The additional vehicles act a backup, to make sure you’ll be able to get the person out (or at least send out a messenger). Not all transports need to get to the highway, either. I tell drivers to continue trying the phone until they make contact with emergency responders. They may be able to meet the driver part way, thereby saving valuable time.

As I said, if you’re able to place a call, dial 911. If you’re not, you’ll need to decide whether to transport the person, or send other drivers out to get help. Start with an assessment of the person’s injuries or illness. That’s why I suggest including an assessment checklist or SOAP Note (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) Tear sheets in the emergency packet. Once you understand what you’re dealing with, you can apply necessary first aid, and you’re in a better position to identify the resources you require.

The assessment forms and the SOAP Note Tear Sheets are available from a variety of online sources. Buy enough copies for your first aid kit, glove compartment, and go bag.
Any of the First Aid booklets from EMS Safety Services contains an assessment form that can be pulled out and copied. Here is the link.
It would be a good idea to carry one of these booklets in the packet as well as one in your first aid kit. The books are slim (44 pages) and only $4.50.

You can order a booklet of Soap Notes Tear Sheets from Wilderness Medical Associates at
The cost is $5.95 for a book of about 8 sheets. The book can be split up (or order multiple booklets) to put several sheets each in the emergency packet and in your first aid kit.

Wilderness Medical Associates also has a great First Aid Field Guide for $21.95.

Carry this one in your pocket!

As you can see, a emergency packet is an extremely important part of your gear. Spend a few moments developing one before your next off-road excursion. It could prove to be a life-saver.

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