Safety Precautions for Weather

Heat Stroke Hazard
Our body temperature is generally maintained at around 37°C. A build-up of excessive body heat can lead to serious consequences. Overheating the body can cause serious impact to the brain - generally known as "heat stroke". Heat stroke victims must be treated without delay. The most basic rule is to help the victim dissipate body heat. Heat stroke can cause death within a very short time, so treatment must be speedy.

Overheating results from extreme or prolonged exposure to heat. As the body tries to rapidly dissipate the excessive heat, the blood vessels near the skin surface expand. This results in the blood supply to the brain and other vital organs running low, and so the victim looses consciousness. Early signs of overheat are dizziness and palpitations, followed by nausea, vomiting, headache, restlessness and finally unconsciousness. The obvious symptoms are cold sweaty skin and abnormally low body temperature.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is caused by poor sweating and heat dissipation. When we work in extreme heat for an extended period, the function of our sweat glands will slow down or even stop. This prevents proper heat dissipation. At the onset of heat stroke, the victim feels very hot. This uneasiness is quickly followed by an unclear mind, disorientation and finally unconsciousness. Obvious signs are a high body temperature exceeding 105°F and very warm skin with no sweat.

Guidelines for Replenishing Salt
It is a common belief that periodic intake of salt can make up the loss caused by exercising in hot weather. The truth is, our normal diet contains sufficient salt to restore a healthy level. Unless you are in high temperature continuously for three or more days, there is no need to take any salt supplement. As pure salt absorbs water, it is not advisable to take salt tablets. To avoid stomachache, drink warm water with salt instead.

Precautions for Exercising in Hot Weather
We lose a considerable amount of moisture when we engage in outdoor activities in hot weather. It is crucial to replenish water and salt. There is a common misconception that drinking too much water will reduce the level of salt and minerals. The truth is quite the contrary. Drinking water is a good way to replenish body moisture and minerals.
Dehydration can cause heat stroke or collapse. It is important to stay in the shade and take breaks regularly. Avoid doing strenuous exercise at mid-day or during the early hours of the afternoon.
People with heart disease, diabetes or fever are more prone to heat stroke and collapse. For them extra care is advised.

Cold Distress
Cold distress or "hypothermia" often occurs when the hiker is not adequately protected by thermal clothing. It can also be a combined effect of hunger and cold. The victim will feel chilly, reflexes become slow, and other symptoms like haziness, grumpiness, abnormal behaviour, wobbliness, convulsion and shivers soon set in. To prevent cold distress, wear good thermal clothing and protect yourself with extra clothes when you stop to rest. Eat nutritious food along the way to ward off hunger.
Help the victim to a sheltered spot away from any wind. Protect him/her with extra clothing (but not too much) and lie him/her down in a sleeping bag. Make a hot drink for the victim (don't give any food or drink if unconscious). Never apply direct heat such as a hot water bottle), for this will cause blood pressure and body temperature to drop drastically as blood vessels sudden expand.

Getting Lost in Thick Mist or Heavy Rain
In spring, thick mists are common in Hong Kong's countryside. On a bad day, visibility can be down to a few feet. Hiking in this kind of weather calls for extra care. Before entering an area with thick mist, make sure you know your exact position, and note the local environment and scenic features to help identify your present location. If the area you are in suddenly becomes misty, stay calm. Try to find a return path. If your fellow hikers are tired or you are uncertain about the return path, the safest thing is to stay put in a nearby sheltered place and wait for help.
Make sure all members of the group stay close together. Above all, never allow anyone to wander off. Don't finish your emergency food in one go. Divide it up to make it last longer. Send out an SOS phone call right away. In the spring and summer months, thunderstorms are com- mon in Hong Kong. Thunderstorms often come with torrential rain and it poses considerable danger to hikers. There have been fatal accidents from lightning strikes on Lantau Peak, Tai Mong Tsai and Lamma.

Lightning Strikes
Lightning usually strikes the land at abrupt high peaks or exposed ridges. The great electric current does not stop at the contact point, but is conducted to the ground for a further distance before finally dying out. Hikers are more likely to be hit by the ground current than struck by the actual lightning.
When the Hong Kong Observatory issues a thunderstorm warning, or when you see rain clouds gathering, stay away from peaks and high ridges. Don't make your way downhill along a spur, and don't stand near trees, telephone posts, lampposts, HV cable posts or high towers. Never take cover in shallow ditches or among rocks. If there are village houses nearby, seek temporary shelter there immediately. If it's too late to move, find somewhere safe near a small mount of seven to ten metres. Keep your hands off the ground, put your feet together, and kneel on an insulated object or gravel. Never sit or lie on the ground. Try to keep your body dry.
It is best to spread the group to several nearby locations. That way, if hikers in one position are struck, there will be others to give first aid.

Hong Kong has almost no rivers, but there are many streams and watercourses in our countryside. Heavy rain can turn trickling streams into raging torrents. Never underestimate the force of these fast and devastating torrents. A rushing waterway the depth of your ankles is powerful enough to throw you off your feet, while knee-deep water can wash away water buffaloes and other large animals. Never hike along a river valley, stream or basin, and don't wade across streams, catchwaters or dams. Following heavy rain, steep or weathered slopes are potentially hazardous. To avoid the danger of landslides, finds a safer route. If there is a landslide, stay calm. Seek shelter in a safe place high up, and hold on to a tree or large boulder. Never run in panic or act alone.

How To Avoid Accidents

The single best way to prevent accidents is to plan your hiking trips carefully, make adequate preparations and ensure all group members know how to enjoy safe hiking. During hikes, use sound judgement and acquired skills, and work closely with your companions, for maximum safety. Very few hiking accidents are the result of "bad luck". Most result from poor judgment, ignoring the land or weather conditions, taking "shortcuts", behaving hastily, or taking risks.

Calling for Help

The Leader should take charge. If the Leader is injured, then the Deputy Leader should take his/ her place.
The other members must obey instructions and work together as a team to overcome the danger or crisis.

The Leader's Responsibilities In A Crisis:
Assess and monitor the situation. Never panic or act hastily. Evacuate the group from the place of danger immediately, and try to minimize the threat to the injured and fellow group members (including yourself).
Diagnose the Injury and Perform First Aid

If the Injured is Conscious
  • Ask the victim where it hurts. Examine the affected area and treat as required.
  • If the wound is bleeding, stop the bleeding immediately. Protect the wound with clean dressing and fasten with bandage.

If the Injured is Unconscious
  • Top priority is to help the injured breathe. Check if the respiratory canal is clear. If the injured has stopped breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation immediately.
  • Check the victim's temperature, pulse and pupils carefully.
  • If there is bleeding, stop it immediately before continuing with a thorough examination.
If there is more than one victim, the first aid officer must make a swift decision to first treat the one in greatest need. The other victims will be tended to later. If there is only one first aid officer, he/she can place all unconscious victims in a recovery position to treat them in turn.

What to Do with the Victims
  • Place the injured in a sheltered place, or preferably a well-ventilated building. If necessary, make a shelter.
  • Make the injured comfortable. Give him/her a drink with sugar, and help them put on extra warm clothing.
  • If there is sign of a bone fracture, don't move the injured. Give him/her extra clothing and a warm drink to maintain adequate body temperature.
  • If the victim is unconscious, or is injured in the head, chest or abdomen, don't give him/her any drink. Call for help immediately.

What to Do with the Other Members
  • The Leader must steady and comfort fellow members, to help avoid panic and to guide them in first aid and looking after the injured.
  • When injury occurs, change the hiking plan. Never leave the victim to continue your journey.

How to Call for Help
  • If it is necessary to leave the injured behind in the wild, make sure he/she is lent safely against a rock or a tree so there is no chance of further fall. This is particularly important if the victim is unconscious.
  • Use a map or the nearest distance post to locate yourself to facilitate the rescue.
  • Leave a torch or a whistle with the victim to attract rescuers' attention and to help confirm his/her location. Cover the victim with a bright coloured garment to help rescuers find him/her. Or hang some bright coloured garment from a nearby rock or tree, facing the way rescuers will probably approach from.
  • If the other members are not injured, the leader should send two people to the nearest police guard point, country park rangers' station or emergency service telephone. Pick two calm and organized members who can make rational decisions for this assignment.

How to Call For Help
  • When in distress, send a signal with a whistle or torch. Make 6 consecutive long blasts with your whistle (or call out loud or flash your torch). Stop for 1 minute, then repeat the process.
  • To send a SOS signal : 3 short blasts, 3 long blasts followed by 3 short blasts. The rescuers' reply signal: A series of 3 long blasts, followed by 1 minute's pause, then another series of 3 long blasts.

Survival Kit
  • Your survival kit should be a small box with life-saving items. The box is usually made of tin, for example, a chocolate tin. Items inside include:
  • Mirror: To reflect sunlight to attract attention. A mirror is best, but if it breaks the back of a tin lid can also be used.
  • Matches or phosphorous pellets: To make a fire for cooking (match heads must be sealed with wax).
  • Magnesium pellets: Burning magnesium pellets will generate strong light for a few seconds. This is mainly for SOS purpose. Given the very short life of the magnesium pellets light, think carefully before using them.
  • Needles, threads: To mend torn clothes (threads must be at least 1m long).
  • Small scissors: To cut dressings or bandages.
  • Eyebrow tweezers: To pull out splinters.
  • Small compass: The size of a 20-cent coin, for direction finding.
  • Flag signals or Morse Code table: These icons are important must-haves. Write the codes down on paper and paste it on the back of the Survival Kit with clear tape.
  • Pencils and paper: Small pencils and paper.
  • Pain killers (for adults): Mostly for fever, headache or flu symptoms.
  • Cotton wool: Press it flat before putting in the box. Clean cotton wool should be used to stop bleeding. You can also dab it with antiseptic dressing and protect open wounds.
  • Bandage: For dressing wounds. Bandages should be long enough to cover a wound adequately.
  • Medicated oil: For abdominal pain and headache. Choose a fragrant preparation with stimulating and reviving effects.
  • Antiseptic cream: To kill germs and bacteria. To avoid side effects, do not use antiseptics with other medicines.
  • Medicated plasters: A few plasters for use when needed.
  • Mopiko: For insect bites.
  • Fine fishing line and tackle: For fishing for emergency good.
  • Salt tablets: Crush them and put in a plastic bag. To replenish body salt, add in food.
  • Map coordinate measurement device: To identify locations on a map.
  • Survival kit diagram: Make a sketch of where each item is located in the box. Seal it with completely with clear tape and place on top of everything else. This diagram will help you find items speedily.
  • One-dollar coins: To make emergency phone calls.
  • Personal information card: Write your name, address, telephone number and other important personal information on this card.
This Survival Kit is very helpful to hikers. Remember to replace and renew items regularly, so that medicines and other items are always effective.

Safety Guidelines

Planning Your Hiking Trip
  • Get to know your group members and understand their teamwork capacity, physical condition, skills and experience. Don't over-stretch their ability.
  • Be prepared for poor weather and environmental changes during the hike.
  • In estimating the length of your hike, make allowance for sunrise, sunset, high tide and low tide, as well as any extra time to deal with tired group members or other unexpected delays.

Plan in Place
  • Prepare your hiking gear, and make sure all group members know how to use all the items properly.
  • Provide all those concerned (parents, teachers or instructors and organizers) and the contact person with your hiking plan, hiking programme, route map and personal details of all group members. Notify all parties concerned promptly of any changes.

Before Setting Off
  • Check your gear, everything complete and in good working condition.
  • Check that all members are wearing suitable clothes, socks and boots.
  • The leader should brief members about the planned route.
  • Every member should know the route and the nearest rescue stations, such as a police station, emergency service telephone, location and telephone number of the nearest country park rangers' station.
  • Make sure all group members are in good physical and mental condition.
  • Note the weather. If there is a thunder warning, typhoon signal Number One or above - don't tempt fate. Cancel your hike.

During the Hike
  • The group should stay together. Don't allow any member to lag behind or get too far ahead. Keep an eye on members' physical, mental and emotional state. Be aware of each other - and look after each other.
  • Maintain a constant speed, without going too fast or too slow. Generally, it is recommended to make a day a hike of 15 km or less.
  • Stick to regularly maintained trails. Exploring new routes will put you in danger, or at least waste time. Don't walk along any natural watercourses. Mountain torrents after sudden heavy rain are extremely dangerous.
  • To avoid serious dehydration in hot weather, take frequent breaks around midday - and drink plenty of water, steadily in small drinks.
  • If you are doing activities or hiking during the night, wear bright coloured clothing and keep your torch on. On roads, always face oncoming traffic.
  • Remember the route along the way. At every junction, look back and note the appearance of the landscape. If necessary, leave a marker - or draw a simple sketch map of all the turnings. This will help you retrace your steps if you later become lost.
  • Note changes in the weather. Terminate the trip if the weather suddenly changes for the worse. Head home or go to the nearest safe place. Keep calm and avoid hurrying, which may cause an accident. Tell the contact person immediately when you change the hiking plan.
  • Take heed of all warning signs along the way. If ever in doubt about any route, stop immediately. Keep calm and judge carefully how to proceed.
  • Maintain a natural walking rhythm and pace. Never run downhill. Use extra care on gravel paths. Never take shortcuts and, if you can, avoid descending along very steep slopes.