Safety tips offered to Buckhannon Rotary

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Rotary Club learned Tuesday about Hug-A-Tree and Survive, a safety program geared toward teaching kids what to do when they get lost.

Brandi Nesbitt, a member of Mountaineer Search and Rescue and a certified instructor for the program, urged club members to get the word out to their children, grandchildren and other kids they know because children “go missing” every day.

“It’s happening everywhere,” Nesbitt said.

She said there are things both children and parents need to know in case they are ever in such a situation. Some parents wait it out and others start searching, but Nesbitt said parents need to immediately report their child as missing.

Nesbitt said search teams will not be upset because a child is returned shortly after a call is made. On the contrary, she said teams are happy to learn a child has been found safe.

Parents should make themselves available for interviews if their child is missing, and be aware that even the most minute of details could be beneficial to a search, Nesbitt said.

“Don’t think that anything that you say is too trivial or too much information,” Nesbitt said. “We need every little piece of information you can give us about your child. It’s the craziest little things. What they eat. What they snack on. What their favorite foods are, their favorite drink. I mean everything. We need to know everything.”

In large events and trips involving hundreds of kids, Nesbitt said it can be challenging to distinguish whose footprints are whose. She said there is an easy way that parents can footprint their children using a piece of tin foil, adding that she has footprints of every shoe her children have. The foil works best on carpet, Nesbitt said, but a towel can also be folded over. To make the print, place the foil on the floor or over the towel and have the child walk on it. The shoe will leave an impression.

Because shoes are mass-manufactured, Nesbitt said there are ways to make the prints completely unique, such as cutting an “X” in the sole or imprinting a penny or coin on the bottom of the sole by heating it up.

For children who learn about the safety tips Nesbitt teaches, the term “hug a tree” becomes significant because it is the first thing they are told to do when they realize they are lost. Instead of running, Nesbitt said that children should stop where they are and hug a tree or another stationary object.

Nesbitt said it is important that children realize they should not move from where they are; they should not go find water or find food. The more they move about, the harder it can be for rescue teams to find them. Nesbitt also said rescue teams will have water and food.

When she teaches the safety tips to kids, Nesbitt said she sends them home with a whistle and they are told to always carry the whistle and a trash bag. The trash bag can be used to protect the child from sun and rain, Nesbitt said.

The whistle can be used to project sound that rescue teams can locate, while also scaring off animals, Nesbitt said, adding kids need to know animals are afraid of people. She said that if kids hear a scary noise they should yell at it or use their whistle. If it is a rescue team, the team could find them, but if it is an animal, the noise could scare it away.