01-15-22 OPINION community perspectives column backcountry preparednessweb.jpg

Sheridan County Sheriff's Office undersheriff Lt. Levi Dominguez's son, Will Dominguez, prepares to ski near Steamboat after the first snowfall in October 2021. Dominguez shares tips on how to best prepare for adventures in the backcountry.

We are very fortunate to live in an area that has so much to offer year-round for the outdoor enthusiast. With the Bighorn National Forest in our backyard and other outdoor opportunities available in Sheridan County, it’s no wonder people love it here. My family, like many others, enjoys taking advantage of all the outdoor activities our county has to offer. We love to hunt, fish and camp in the summer and fall and ski and snowshoe in the winter and spring.

It should go without saying that recreating in Sheridan County and the Bighorn National Forest will always have the propensity for unexpected emergencies to surface. Those emergencies can include injuries, getting lost, inclement weather, and the list goes on.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared when recreating in the backcountry. Know the weather forecast for the area you plan to be in and let others know where you plan to be. Pack accordingly for the conditions and have the means necessary to stay warm. The activity you are doing will dictate what equipment you pack. If you are new to a certain outdoor activity like snowmobiling, ATV riding, backcountry skiing, backpacking, etc., go with someone who has experience.

I want to provide you with some information about a new campaign supported by the Wyoming State Search and Rescue Council, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security and the Wyoming Sheriff’s Association. It’s called “Be 307 Aware.” It’s essentially a dedicated radio channel accessible by any two-way handheld radio with Family Radio Service or General Mobile Radio Service that can be used by recreationalists to communicate with first responders in the event of an emergency.

Two-way radios with FRS and GMRS capabilities are easily accessible to purchase through local retailers and are becoming a common item added to the equipment list for hunters, snowmobilers, ATV riders and backcountry enthusiasts. I encourage all recreationalists to carry an FRS or GMRS radio in the backcountry. Once you have the radios, know how to program them to Channel 3, Privacy Code 07 (307) or UHF 462.6125 and Privacy Code 85.4.

In the event of a backcountry emergency, the 307 channel will give victims the opportunity to communicate with search and rescue crews if they are within range. This can greatly reduce the time spent in actively searching for an injured or lost person. It’s important to know the 307 channel is not actively monitored by Search and Rescue and is only used when a search or rescue has been initiated. This dedicated channel is not a replacement for 911.

As the avid recreationalist knows, there are many great emergency satellite communication devices and mobile SOS apps to use while in the backcountry, and this is just another tool that can be used in the event of an emergency.

Our Sheridan Area Search and Rescue is equipped to utilize this new program, and I am certain there will be success stories in the near future with its implementation. The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Sheridan Area Search and Rescue would like to wish everyone a safe and positive experience while recreating in the backcountry.

Lt. Levi Dominguez is Sheridan County undersheriff.

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