HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - As longer days and warmer weather makes it way in, more and more people are getting out and exploring all that nature has to offer.
A search and rescue team spent three hours looking for a family that got lost on an afternoon hike in the Desoto National Forest.
Officials say the family left the trail, and that mistake should serve as a warning that the wilderness can be a dangerous place if you do not prepare for it. Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan says situations like that one can be avoided by following a few simple tips.
1: Know where you are going.
"Know where the beginning and ending parts of the trail are. Do your homework and find out if there is any type of terrain that maybe if you have young children or older people that it may be too taxing on them," said Sullivan.
There should be a map at the start of the trail. If there is no hard copy to take, snap a picture of it to follow along should you need to retrace your steps or figure out where you are. Having a clear idea of where you are will make it easier for crews to find you, if necessary.
2: Make sure your phone has a full battery before leaving the house.
"The family had a phone and was able to communicate with us for most of the time but then the phone went dead, and then subsequently it took a longer time to go and locate them because they didn't know where they were at," said Sullivan.
Keep your phone on the charger even in the car ride to the trail. Putting your phone in power saver mode is also recommended.
3: Physically write down emergency contacts and invest in a secondary power source for your cell phone.
Sullivan noted, "They make all these auxiliary sources that attach to your phone and give you power. We always suggest that you carry one of those with you."
Before hiking, write down the US Forest Service's Park Ranger Dispatch number. The forest is in the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
4: Pack a bag with more than enough water, snacks and camping gear in case it gets dark and you have to stay overnight.
Many who get lost just plan on taking a day trip. They often do not expect for it to get dark or for the weather to change while they're out.
"Having all of these things in anticipation of something going wrong is the best thing for your well-being when you're out," said Sullivan.
First responders say that by sticking to these tips and applying general common sense while hiking, you can reduce your chances of getting lost on your next big adventure.