Emergency contact system

Most clubs, schools and other organisations with an outdoor activity program usually have an emergency contact system, which is a formalised approach to the common outdoor education call to ‘Let someone know before you go’. If you are organising a trip with any potential for delays or requirement for external assistance of any kind, the use of an emergency contact is very strongly recommended. This person’s role is to:

  • contact emergency response assistance in the event of the leader not notifying the contact person of a safe return by the nominated time
  • contact police or other emergency assistance if the leader rings seeking assistance
  • act as the initial contact point for concerned people seeking information on a group’s whereabouts.

In order for the emergency contact to perform this role, they will need the following information:

  • the starting and finishing points and details of the intended route
  • the leader’s name, address, telephone number and car registration number
  • the names, addresses and phone numbers of all group members
  • the general level of experience of the group, plus an indication of how well equipped it is
  • the expected time of finishing
  • the date and time at which contact should be made with emergency authorities if the leader fails to notify safe return
  • contact details for office bearers or others within the school or club, if not already known.

It is recommended practice that the emergency contact first attempts to telephone the leader before ringing for assistance, just in case the leader has forgotten to ring.

If the leader rings the emergency contact seeking external assistance, the contact must obtain:

  • the exact location (including map name and grid reference)
  • the nature of the problem
  • the weather and track conditions in the area
  • the number of affected and unaffected group members
  • details of any means of contacting the group.

This information will be critical for the police or other emergency services in planning an appropriate response.