13 Fascinating Facts about Lost Person Behaviour
Did you know that there are forty-one different types of people who get lost in forty-one different ways? Lost Person Behaviour is the science of knowing where to search for someone based on which of the forty-one profiles applies. The profiles were developed from a huge database of statistics gathered by search and rescue teams engaged in more than two million hours of searching.
Lost Person Behaviour is a New Science
Father Lorenzo, back in 1783, was the first to keep records of search and rescue results. He was part of the Swiss monastery system that used St. Bernard dogs to rescue people lost in the Alps. Father Lorenzo’s kept records only of fatalities. Apparently, three or four people died each year as a result of either avalanche or hypothermia.
In the mid 1970’s, a guy named Bill Syrotuck came up with eight categories of Lost Person Behaviour. That was helpful, but the really enormous leap forward in search and rescue work came in 2008. That’s when Robert Koester wrote Lost Person Behaviour , a book that reviewers describe as “ground breaking” and “indispensable”.
There’s also a Lost Person Behaviour app to help search and rescue teams respond even more quickly. The app doesn’t require a network connection so can be used anywhere. It’s available for $10 from both Google Play and Apple.
Koester is the first to acknowledge that people are unique so his categories may not work perfectly every time. He also hopes to develop more categories, joking that he’s sure some future search is going to require a category for “female elderly light-wind board-sailers.”
Nevertheless, knowledge of Lost Person Behaviour has been proven to consistently get search and rescue teams moving quickly in the right direction.
How Would You be Categorized if Lost?
Three questions will determine how to start looking for you.
I was never lost in the woods in my whole life, though once I was confused for three days.Daniel Boone
The first question is about your mental status. If you have dementia, a mental illness, or have been despondent, those are all categories that allow rescuers to assume certain things about how you will behave and how far you will travel.
Assuming good news on the mental status questions, rescuers want to know your age. This is particularly important if you are fifteen or under. Children behave quite differently depending on which category or age grouping they fall into: 1-3, 4-6, 7-12, or 13-15.
Finally, rescuers will categorize you according to what you were outdoors to do. For example, were you camping, hunting, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, fishing or working? The answer gives rescuers a good idea as to your competency and to how you’ll behave when lost.
While many other questions will be asked, determining where you fit into the forty-one categories is the vital first step.
13 Fascinating Facts about Lost Person Behaviour
- It is a myth that we panic when lost. Instead, most of us experience shock, disbelief, and embarrassment.
- Many people experience an irrational belief that no one is looking for them. When that happens, they don’t call out. Some even ignore a helicopter flying overhead.
- Hansel and Gretel may have benefited from leaving a trail of bread crumbs, but it’s not a good sign when a lost person leaves a trail of clothing or equipment. Rather, it’s an unfortunate indicator of either late stage hypothermia or exhaustion.
- Fifty per cent of searches resolve within three hours.
- Fifty-four per cent of people are found within two miles of the point where they were last seen.
- Hikers tend to become lost if the trail is obscured or if there are confusing trails that intersect. Rescuers do a map and terrain analysis to determine where the confusing spots are so they can look there first.
- Hunters become lost because they are focused on game rather than navigation or time of day. If caught after dark, the typical hunter will build a shelter and then proudly walk out of the woods, unassisted, at daybreak.
- Despondent people typically don’t travel very far. If suicidal, they hide from search teams. Despondent people are often found at the interface between two types of terrain, such as a cliff edge, or along a shoreline.
- Lost adults will usually stay on a trail, however they may climb a hill to get a view of the area. They rarely travel in a straight line, and rarely reverse direction.
- Children, on the other hand, look for familiar spots rather than trails. They can’t judge either direction or distance and tend to move randomly.
- Young people of ages 13-15 often become lost in groups of two or more. Youth in a group rarely travel very far from where they were last seen.
- Children, ages 1-3, look for the most convenient location to lie down and are, as a result, very difficult to detect. A little bit older, ages 4-6, and one of the big problems is that they won’t answer rescuers’ calls because they’ve been taught to avoid strangers.
- Berry pickers, nature photographers, and rock hounds are often inadequately clothed or equipped. Rescuers try to put themselves in the lost person’s shoes, asking questions such as, “Where do the best berries grow?”
3 Ways to Make It Easier to Be Found
While this post isn’t about how to survive in the woods if lost, I stumbled across three things that search and rescue teams attend to when looking for a lost person. They:
- Look to see if there are any travel aids in the area. A travel aid is anything that would give a lost person an indication of civilization, such as an abandoned railroad, or a power line right of way.
- Tend to find you more easily if you stay put. One statistic I found said that 83% of those rescued had not moved for more than twenty-four hours.
- Hope you’ll set a fire. Fires are a great distress signal. And if you are lost for a while and move on, the extinguished fire circles you leave behind provide excellent clues for searchers.
I was lost in the woods at night on a conservation area field trip when I was ten years old. Fortunately, I was lost with my teacher and half a dozen other children. I remember my teacher becoming increasingly concerned and I remember us walking for what felt like hours, but I was with an adult so I don’t think I was overly anxious. Nevertheless, it was a tremendous relief to see the lights of the conservation centre and to be welcomed with hot chocolate and a snack when we finally arrived, cold and tired, at 11:00 p.m.
I have never been lost as an adult, but did lose my three-year-old niece at an amusement park one time. We were playing in the young children’s area. She went into a tunnel but didn’t emerge where I waited at the other end. It turned out that there were multiple exits from the tunnel. The ten minutes it took to find her were the longest ten minutes of my life. Equally challenging was the conversation that evening when my niece reported to her mother that, “Aunt Karen losted me.”
Have you ever been lost? What was the experience like for you?