For the past 23 years, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue have collaborated to teach the 4th graders at Incline Elementary School about the Winter Wilderness Survival program. The program teaches children what to do should they ever find themselves lost in the outdoors, with the overall goal of providing exposure in the ongoing lessons of living safely in the mountains. This year the program will be held at Incline Elementary School on Tuesday, February 2, 2019.

The program starts with an indoor assembly reviewing how to dress properly, food and fuel and the “3 W’s” - Where am I going, Who am I going with, When will I be back? Then the students go outside and participate in winter awareness stations.

The “S.T.O.P” station stands for Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Stop to take a minute and pause, don’t panic. Next, think and gather information, for example, does anyone know where you are, what do you have with you? What time is it? Next, Observe – use your eyes and ears. Pay attention to the weather (wind, snow, sun, and clouds) and particular landmarks such as hills, streams, roads and rocks. Are you with anyone? Are they feeling strong, tired or cold? Can you hear dogs, cars, people – signs of civilization?

The second station focuses on shelters. The goal of this station is to stay warm and dry. The kids learn how to build a shelter with any available materials such as branches, surrounding trees and rocks, ski equipment that you may have with you.

The third station teaches the children about using signals and how to make one. Once you have built a shelter, it is important make an effective signal to get attention. What can you use and what can you do to let people know you are here? Making yourself big and obvious, using a whistle and making an “x” in the snow with your skis or rocks and branches are some ideas to create an obvious appearance that calls for attention.

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This winter safety program was started in 1981 in San Diego, California, after a search for a nine-year old boy who died in the local mountains. Targeted to teach children ages 5 – 12 years of age, this program is specifically designed for their level of understanding.

The Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team has been teaching Winter Wilderness Survival since 1976 and collaborating with North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District since 1996. Families living in the wilderness areas, such as Lake Tahoe need to know this important information. Whether hiking, camping or playing in the snow it only takes a minute to get lost, become disoriented and suddenly be in a situation that requires you to know basic outdoor survival skills – winter or summertime. This life saving education has been well received across the United States and other countries, noting documented saves in areas where the programs is available and taught.

For more information on this life saving program, visit www.tahoenordicsar.com.