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Archive | Bushwalking safety

Canberra Bushwalking Club – Safe River Crossings Training

River Safety Training, Cotter River, February 2021, Canberra Bushwalking Club

At the start of 2021 Canberra Bushwalking Club held a challenging and interesting activity for members – a river-crossing training exercise. Held in the clear waters of the Cotter River, 26 club members attended keen to learn how to cross rivers safely.

The training was recommended for leaders and anyone contemplating walking in New Zealand or Tasmania. The course covered teaching participants how to assess a river, identify the safest crossing place and solo and team crossing techniques. Participants practiced these techniques in water up to thigh deep and also had the opportunity to practice swimming with a pack.

The day was highly successful with all participants agreeing that the course helped them to learn these essential life-saving skills. Watch more here to learn more about river safety.

Our Club of the Month: Canberra Bushwalking Club

Canberra Bushwalking Club was founded in 1961 and currently has over 400 members. While the Club’s main activity is bushwalking it also offers canoeing, canyoning, caving, conservation work parties, cross-country skiing, cycling, geocaching, liloing and social activities. Check out the Club’s Facebook page to see more.

Features of the Canberra Bushwalking Club include:

  • A range of activities – from easy urban rambles and walks suitable for families with toddlers, to multi-day expeditions in rough and remote areas
  • Training programs in navigation and other topics
  • Strong emphasis on safety
  • Modest annual membership fees (currently $40)
  • Non-members welcome on activities, with agreement of walk leader (up to 3 activities)
  • Participants covered by public liability insurance
  • Monthly meetings with guest speakers

Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers – Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens

Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens Easy 6km walk, Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers, Saturday 27th March 2021

A recent Dalmeny Narooma Bushwalkers Club walk was an easy 6kms in Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens. The Eurobodalla Regional Botanical Gardens are set on 42 hectares of Mogo State Forest, adjacent to Deep Creek Dam. The site has not been logged since the early years of the twentieth century and visitors can appreciate many of the region’s plants in a natural setting.  The Gardens has 8kms of beautiful public walking tracks which vary in length and gradient to cater for individual requirements and limitations.

It was a perfect day for the Club’s walk during which Margaret Lynch explained what was happening in the Gardens.  After the recent bushfires a lot of work has been completed and more is planned. The walkers were delighted to see the Gardens regrowth including many young green wattles which protect the undergrowth floor and let other native plants thrive.

The Club members walked 5.5km and had a look at Deep Creek Dam, for which a new lookout is planned. At the end of the walk Bev Brazel thanked Margaret for the walk on our behalf. Some walkers enjoyed lunch at the Cafe, some bought plants, and others had their lunch in the grounds. Overall all participants agreed that it was a very pleasant day.

Our Club of the Month for April 2021: Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers

Our club of the month is Dalmeny-Narooma Bushwalkers who have been walking for 35 years. The Club meet at the Red Tractor, George Noble Park, Dalmeny, with a plywood tractor now used to represent the original to honour the Club’s history.

Dalmeny Narooma Bushwalkers was established in May 1986 to encourage bushwalking as a pleasant group activity. The Club welcomes new walkers to join in and enjoy the beautiful bush and coastal environments of the far south coast of NSW.

Volunteer walk leaders offer various grade bushwalks twice a week around the local area of Eurobodalla and Bega Valley, as well as club camps in other localities and some social activities. The Club aims to keep its procedures as simple and as affordable as possible but also has a few rules to keep all walkers safe in the bush. Walks are grouped into 3 programs a year – Autumn, Winter and Spring – and are published on the Club’s website.

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Paddle NSW Training

Paddle NSW is currently offering Flatwater Leadership skills training with reduced prices for successful applicants!

The Paddle NSW Flatwater Leadership Course is being held on March 28-29 at Lake Parramatta, Sydney and on 4 April in Dubbo Central Western NSW. This two day training course is sufficient for a teacher or Sport & Recreation leader to take kids out on flat water so extensive.

The Dubbo course is heavily subsidised and costs only $150 per participant!

Click here to register for both courses.

Paddle NSW can also design tailored courses for 6 to 8 people in locations across NSW to upskill club members in basic whitewater skills or to upskill club paddle leaders. Contact Paddle NSW here for more information.

Contacting Emergency Services

with the Emergency+ smart phone app

Some advice to consider regarding contacting Emergency Services from an experienced bushwalker and engineer.

The Emergency+ app is highly recommended for bushwalkers. It lists all the important emergency phone numbers – 000 (triple zero) of course; but also, the SES, Police assistance line, poisons information and many others. It also has a simple clear display of your location as a latitude/longitude which can identify your position anywhere in the world, which is of course important for bushwalkers as the usual “street and nearest cross street” location is not useful in the bush.

But there are some limitations and misconceptions about the Emergency+ app you should be aware of.​

​Firstly, in an emergency, if you dial 000 (triple zero) using the Emergency+ app it is no different to dialling 000 from a normal phone. It does not send any special information and it does not send your position to the 000 operator. You will still have to tell the operator your position, and that can be the GPS coordinates from the Emergency+ app if that is the best way to do it. On the Emergency+ app it gives your GPS coordinates in a box titled “Tell the operator your location” – you have to tell the operator your position as the operator cannot read it from the phone directly.​

​Secondly, the Emergency+ app uses the GPS (or GNSS system to be more precise) in your phone to get your position. If the GPS is having difficulty in getting a position – maybe you are in a damp area, under a thick tree canopy or near cliffs – then the GPS will return the last position it got a fix on the position until a new fix is determined. This old fix could be anywhere you have been recently; maybe at home before you left, maybe on the drive to the start of your walk; but this fix will be displayed until a new fix is determined. The old fix could be wrong by kilometres, or even in the wrong country if you have just done an international flight!​

​To make sure the location fix it is displaying is a current fix and not an old fix there are two things to look at. The simplest is the little map next to the position. Check the maps shown is correct for where you are. But as this is a street map it is not very helpful in remote areas as there might not be any streets nearby so nothing will be shown.

Page 2 or “+” page of app

A better way to check your fix is a current one is to go to the second page of the Emergency+ app (the “+” with a circle around it on the top or bottom bar) and in the red box at the bottom it says “GPS COORDINATES (Address updated XX secs ago)”. Make sure your address has been updated in the time you have been at your current location, and preferably only a few seconds ago. If it shows that your address has only been updated hours or days ago you should be cautious that the position it will display will be an old position which could be miles away.

 

Finally, remember that the position displayed on the Emergency+ app is just one way to give your position. If you know your position as a grid reference from a map, another GPS, a street address or even some nearby landmark then feel free to use that to give your position to the 000 operator. Speak slowly but remember that all calls to 000 are recorded. Any position reference is acceptable, just make sure it is accurate.

Get the Emergency+ App here now

Adapting to climate change

Our changing climate is bringing new risks which bushwalkers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts should keep in mind whenever planning trips, and whenever we head out on our adventures.

This page gives a quick summary of what to consider. Click through to the relevant authority for detailed information, alerts and to subscribe to alerts and news from each authority.

Extreme weather

The consequences of our changing weather are:

  • More National Park/State Forest/etc closures + more track closures – due to:
    • Threat of fire
    • Damage from fire/flood making tracks unsafe and/or impassable
  • Dehydration & heat stroke of greater concern in hot summer days
  • Increased chance of flooding
  • Poor air quality making prolonged exercise inadvisable (see below)
  • A new Fire Danger Rating

That is why it is important for you to check conditions before you head out. Also monitor conditions for rapid changes. For example, on high fire danger periods/days, or during extreme rainfall, etc.

Avoid remote areas during bushfire conditions. Look at the forward forecast fire ratings and weather before multi-day trips and err on the side of caution.

National Parks closed and damaged by fire

Air quality & health

Air pollutants, including smoke from bush fires, can be harmful to our health and so check air quality forecasts before you head out.

NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment states that we should all reduce heavy or prolonged exercise when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is >150.

However, The Climate and Health Alliance have now declared: “There is no safe level of air pollution. The higher the level of pollution, the more hazardous the risks to health. Bushfire smoke is particularly hazardous because of the high levels of tiny particles (PM2.5).”

You can check the current and forecast air quality here: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/aqi.htm

And find out what the AQI colours mean for your activity here:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/aqi.aspx

Leaders should cancel activities to areas likely to be affected by poor air quality.

Fire Ratings

Note that a new Bush Fire Danger Rating exists called “Catastrophic”. If a Catastrophic warning is issued when and where you are planing to be in the bush, you should cancel your planned activities and move to a place of safety.

A “Catastrophic” rating may be issued in advance so always check the forecast if you are planning/heading out to a multi-day activity.

The current RFS advice for what you should do if the Bush Fire Danger Rating is “Catastrophic” is:

  • For your survival, leaving [the area to be affected] early is the only option.
  • Leave bush fire prone areas the night before or early in the day – do not just wait and see what happens.
  • Make a decision about when you will leave, where you will go, how you will get there and when you will return.
  • Homes are not designed to withstand fires in catastrophic conditions so you should leave early.

See the RFS for full details of Bush Fire Danger Ratings including “Catastrophic”: http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans?a=1421

Learn more about Bush Fire Danger Ratings and Total Fire Bans here: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans

Fire damage

Every time you head out – check:

To manage these hazards always check before you head out:

Hot Spots

These new tools may indicate fire activity, however the site creators say they are “not to be used for safety of life decisions. For local updates and alerts, please refer to your state emergency or fire service.”

Always remember, that this information is only as updated when a satellite passes over the location you are viewing. IE: not that often.

https://firewatch-pro.landgate.wa.gov.au/ (seems to be more current just from our casual observation)

https://hotspots.dea.ga.gov.au/

Alerts

  • Bushwalking NSW does not pass on alerts. Instead, we recommend you sign up for alerts directly with the relevant authority
  • Bushwalking NSW periodically remind our newsletter subscribers that people and clubs should check for alerts:
    • In anticipation for activities
    • Before they head out
  • Sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page and here

Subscribe to updates

  • We encourage all people engaged in outdoor adventure to sign up to receive alerts from the relevant authorities.

Clubs

  • We suggest clubs consider how they are communicating with their members when conditions become hazardous or extreme.

 

We hope this brief guide helps you all to continue to enjoy safe and successful outdoor adventure in our beautiful natural places!

A bushwalker’s two day crawl before rescue

In kindly and candidly sharing a very painful and harrowing ordeal, a club leader has given us some important points to reflect upon. Every time we head out.

In mid-September, Neil Parker (54), an experienced leader for Brisbane Bushwalkers, was conducting a solo recce (reconnaissance walk) of Cabbage Tree Creek near Brisbane, Queensland.

While alone, Neil fell down a 6-metre waterfall, fracturing both his leg and wrist. He then crawled for two days, to reach a clearing, in the hope of a search team finding him. Excruciating.

He did not have a PLB*, and did not leave trip intentions.

It is rare, but sometimes things go wrong.

This article describes the incident: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-18/mt-nebo-bushwalker-crawls-to-safety-after-fracturing-leg-wrist/11522794

Neil’s personal account is well worth a listen:

https://www.facebook.com/ABCSunshineCoast/videos/2434513696831834/

We encourage you to reflect on Neil’s experiences.

 

Some of our reflections are:

  • Take a PLB*, especially when going solo. Even for short walks. Register it with AMSA.
  • Always Leave Trip Intentions with a reliable person.
    • That means telling someone your detailed trip plans, and when you are due to return. Plus it means that person calling the police if you haven’t returned at the time you said you would. Always call your responsible person on your safe return.
  • Neil is saying the right things in his interview so he is clearly very knowledgeable and experienced. This helped him save himself. So:
    • Join a bushwalking club to learn a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experience in all kinds of adventure. For a very low cost! Have a great time discovering new places. and new types of adventure activities.
  • Neil didn’t panic and had a good first aid kit.
    • He could have also included a sam splint in his kit – it is a much better for dealing with a fracture than walking poles or tree branches.
  • Neil demonstrates how important it is to take first aid kits seriously and keep them well-stocked. Even for a short, familiar walk.
  • Neil took warm clothes and a space blanket on a short, local walk, in a warm climate. And needed them.
    • Consider also a cashmere beanie – superb warmth-to-weight ratio.
    • The space blanket kept him warm and could help rescuers see him.
    • Regularly replace your space blanket – they can de-laminate over time.
  • Neil also took a head torch, his mobile phone and energy-packed snacks. He needed all of these too.

 

If you haven’t watched it yet, do watch Neil’s personal account:

https://www.facebook.com/ABCSunshineCoast/videos/2434513696831834/

Pass it on

All outdoor adventures can benefit from Neil Parker’s experience, so please pass this onto them.

For Clubs

We’d also recommend that club committees devote some time to discussing Neil Parker’s experience and insights, and the implications for each club’s risk management.

We advise all club members to put all exploratory (recce) trips on their activities program. This is the minimum requirement for an activity to be covered by our Bushwalking Australia Insurance.

We also recommend all clubs have: (1) a way of recording trip intentions for all activities, (2) a way of checking that all participants have returned from their activities when they said they would, and (3) a person who will call the police if a person/party haven’t returned when they said they would.

 

We wish you all the best out there. And we wish Neil Parker a rapid and full recovery.

 

*PLB = Personal Locator Beacon

Change in search and rescue over time

The history of Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) shows how remote area search and rescue in NSW has changed since 1936 when it was established as the “Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs” (S&R).  In 1936 a team of bushwalkers informally assisted NSW Police in the search for four young men missing in the Grose Valley.  After this search Paddy Pallin, among others, approached NSW Police to formalise arrangements to assist NSW Police in the future.

The model of BSAR has always been to use bushwalkers skilled in remote area navigation to travel independently in National Park type country to aid NSW Police as required.  Mostly, BSAR has been involved in searching for missing persons.

The first “Director” of S&R was Paddy Pallin (founder of the well-known bushwalking shop).

In these early days a telephone tree was used to contact bushwalkers as required.  The S&R Committee would contact a particular “Club Phone Contact” to ‘callout’ club members.  In the very early days search teams would travel by train to an incident.

Sgt Ray Tyson of NSW Police Rescue Squad would often rely on S&R Secretary, Heather White (1959 – 1975) who he thought had an uncanny knowledge of the Blue Mountains.

The “Field Officer” is in control of S&R field operations.  Ninian Melville was appointed as S&R Field Officer in 1961 and replaced Paddy as Director in 1970.  Also, in May 1970 S&R joined the  Volunteer Rescue Association of NSW (VRA) at their first Mid-Year Conference.

HF radio was introduced to S&R by Bob Mead during the 1960’s.  Dick Smith, then a member of Sydney Bush Walkers, assisted in the purchase of the first generation of AM field radios.  In 1979 the second generation of field radios moved to FM SSB.  The ‘QMac’ fourth generation of field radio has given outstanding service for many years as smaller, lighter and more powerful than all previous radios.  BSAR now uses a mix of VHF / UHF radios with these HF radios.

Robert Pallin, son of Paddy took over as Director in October 1971 when Ninian stood down.  Vertical rescue for S&R at this time was done by members of the Sydney Rock Climbing Club (SRC) with Fergus Bell was the “Rock Rescue Officer”.

Fergus Bell worked closely with Robert until he became Director in September 1980. Later, in July 1984 the author moved from Field Officer to Director.

NavShield was set up in 1989 by Secretary, John Tonitto (1987 – 2012) so 2018 was the 30th NavShield.

A major change occurred in 2001 when S&R became a fixed membership squad since it was no longer acceptable to ‘just’ callout club bushwalkers.  S&R incorporated as “Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad” (BWRS – later to become BSAR) to formalise its training and member skills through CBT (Competency Based Training).  BWRS separated from “Federation” with the author its first President.

Overtime, remote area search and rescue has changed further.  In 2018, after much consideration, BSAR reluctantly left the VRA and moved to NSW SES (from 1 May) as a better place to fulfil this role.

Within SES the most senior person in SES BSAR now is its Controller, currently Paul Campbell-Allen.

Since 1936 BSAR has been involved in many incidents occasionally multiday.  Some high profile searches have included an injured person below Narrow Neck, near Katoomba (1949), schoolgirls Monica Schofield (1963) & Vicki Barton (1969), Scout Leader lost in the flooded Shoalhaven River (1977), Trudie Adams (1978 – see 2018 ABC TV investigation), three young men lost in Kangaroo Valley (1987), lost plane and pilots at Kanangra Walls (1993), lost plane in Barrington Tops (1981; an ongoing mystery), David Iredale, near Mt Solitary of the Blue Mtns (2006), deceased person on Mt Cloudmaker (2007 – see VRA Journal Volume 2.3) and Sevak Simonian at Kanangra Walls (2014)

Technology has improved outdoors safety.  The latest field radios can give continuous GPS location of BSAR search teams.  Mobile phones now have better coverage and distress beacons (PLB and EPIRB) can send an emergency signal far more quickly for a person in distress.  However, many people don’t have access to these devices which are yet to be 100% effective.   Experienced ground searchers like SES BSAR are still essential.

Further history of BSAR can be found in a Google drive folder at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cSOMp9zsdYCFG7qbtHrrSQ2-i36U64Pz

Keith Maxwell

President BSAR

Battery Testing for torches

Should a small battery tester be considered an essential item of bushwalking equipment?  Modern LED torches just keep getting better and better.  Battery technology has also gone forward in leaps and bounds with various types that seem to last forever and ever – “best before 20xx”.

My first bushwalking torches used incandescent light bulbs that were miniature versions of house light globes.  Like house globes, torch globes had a limited life span so the folklore was always to carry a spare globe.  But LED lights are so much brighter from a lamp with an almost infinite life span plus they keep getting better and better.  A little while ago the switch on a 100 Lumen head torch failed.  The replacement torch under warranty was 160 Lumens.  Same model just a few months apart.

Our early torch batteries were the ‘red’ carbon batteries.  The Zinc case formed part of the electrical reaction.  They would self-discharge in a short time (go flat) often leaving a corrosive mess.  The batteries were not very powerful so torches had to be big to hold “C” or “D” (large batteries).  Now, alkaline “AA” and “AAA” batteries can be purchased in multi packs.  Even better types of battery are available or your choice of rechargeable battery.

Thus, it is easy to keep a light, compact, bright headlight torch that uses small “AAA” batteries at the bottom of the day pack ‘just in case’ – no wandering in the dark from an unexpected delay.

However, since batteries last so long it is easy to forget to check them.  Most LED torches have a system of still giving out light as the batteries progressively fail.  Corrosion can still eventually happen.  So, you turn on your torch in a bright room and you have light but how good is it really?

Such a torch let us down recently at a disused, open access railway tunnel at Helensburgh.  This amazing long single-track tunnel was brick lined for reinforcement.  The current double track railway through the mountainous terrain has by passed this tunnel.  It was dark enough to have impressive glow worms.

Fortunately, a dud torch was not a problem as our group had all taken spare torches.  Later at home, I found corrosion had started on one battery.  My battery tester indicated that the other batteries were also on the way out.

When did you last properly check your emergency torch?  Importantly, when will be your next check?  Over time I have seen a range of different battery testers with one thing in common.  They were all cheap.  There is no reason not to have a battery tester so you can be sure your emergency torch won’t let you down.

Keith Maxwell.

Be extra snake aware this summer

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) of 31 December 2018 has a worrying report of two deaths from Tiger Snake bite.  Antivenom was administered but it would seem that the dose was insufficient to counteract the snake venom.  The SMH article suggests that there may be disagreement within the medical profession regarding the guidelines for the correct dose of antivenom; just how much antivenom is an  appropriate dose of the latest type of antivenom.  However, there is a call for more research in this matter that has been echoed by the Victorian Coroner.

Any snake bite victim needs to seen promptly by medical services.  Despite this SMH report death from snake bite is now rare with modern antivenom.

Now since snakes are more likely to be active in the recent warm weather bushwalkers need to be more vigilant than usual and consider protective measures such as wearing gaiters or long trousers.  As always, it is better to never get bitten but never forget your First Aid training for the treatment of snake bite.  The necessary broad bandage needs to be easily accessible such as near the top of your rucksack.

A recent post from the Royal Flying Doctor at https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/news/flying-doctor-issues-new-snakebite-advice/ contains excellent advise for treatment of snake bite.

Keith Maxwell.

Bushwalkers help in cold case

Teenager, Trudie Adams went missing in 1978 while hitch hiking home in the Northern Beaches area.  Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) took part in the subsequent NSW Police investigation of this disappearance.

On Tuesday evening 30 October ABC TV aired a program on missing person, Trudie Adams.  At that time none of our members wore any style of uniform, even the Committee.  So Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (full name then was the ‘Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs’ now BSAR) was often just mentioned as among the ‘volunteers’.  The TV program aired a lot of archival news footage but nothing of BSAR members.  The NSW Police uniform was very different to now.

BSAR rescheduled a training weekend for the search.  Walkers went home each night.  Sunday morning had a particularly fierce frost.  The area was very different to now.  An oval (now gone) at the junction of Mona Vale Road and the Forest Way was the search command base.  Mona Vale Road was just one lane each way except for a long slip lane from the Forest Way towards Mona Vale.

Long stretches either side of Mona Vale were searched.  Among the ‘finds’ was a pile of Playboy magazines.  We could only guess why they were dumped; upcoming marriage?  A dank pool of water was bubbling.  This was from something dead but a pig not a person.  Equally, the Police were interested in a mound from a small grave but it was that of a dog.  Other tracks in the immediate area were also searched.  On Sunday, one searcher noticed a garbage bag under a tree.  The Police got very excited when it turned out to be a sawn off shot gun!  It was promptly collected by the relevant Police Squad.

Later, the family of Trudie Adams sent a hand written thank you note to BSAR.

The past is always another country, especially 1978.  BSAR still had their basic first generation field radio – AM HF.  There are two more TV programs to come about this unsolved disappearance.  Pre program promotion suggests that a murky time of Police corruption may be investigated in the next two weeks.