Safety Tips From Lafayette County’s Search & Rescue Team

It’s summer in Mississippi, so you know what that means: It’s time to get outside, get active and get exploring.

But before you hit the trails in Holly Springs National Forrest, cruise around Sardis Lake or go for a bike ride on the South Campus Rail Trail, it’s important to make sure that you are prepared. That starts with packing plenty of water, fully charging your cell phone and taking precautions to protect yourself from the sun.

It also means learning what to do should you become lost.

“The extreme temperatures and varied terrain of rural North Mississippi can create a dangerous environment when a person becomes lost,” said Stephen Wood, Coordinator of the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Team (SAR). “The vulnerable individual may encounter harsh weather, snakes, topographical hazards or the deterioration of preexisting medical conditions.”


Should you find yourself in this situation, Wood says to follow these tips:

  1. Let someone know where you will be. Whenever you head out on an outdoor adventure, it’s important to let someone know where you will be and when you should be home. That way, if you don’t return as expected, there is another person who will call for help.
  2. Stay calm. When you realize that you’ve become lost, stop walking and take a deep breath. Panic can accelerate the strain on your body and cause other unintended side effects.
  3. Retrace your steps. Think about how you got to where you are. Look for landmarks that can help with your orientation, including familiar trees, a curve in the path or a sign that usually dots park trails. From there, listen for the sounds of traffic and other signs of people.
  4. Stay hydrated. Conserve water, but make sure you are drinking enough that you don’t become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, reduced sweating, nausea and lightheadedness.
  5. Call 911. If you can get a signal, don’t hesitate or be embarrassed to call for help, even if you end up finding your way out on your own. It is important to get a search activated right away, especially in extreme heat or cold.
  6. Make a plan. Ultimately the best plan may be to stay put — especially if you are injured or it’s nighttime.

Finally, Wood says to know that officials — including the SAR team — will do everything in their power to find you and bring you home safe.

“If someone is lost or missing, we have the team, assets and tools to be able to find them,” he said. “In your mind, it’s your worst day, but for us, it’s what we’re there to do.”