INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - For the past 17 years, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue have collaborated together to teach the fourth-graders at Incline Elementary School about Winter Wilderness Survival, better known as the "Hug-A-Tree" program.The program focuses on teaching children what to do should they ever find themselves lost in the wilderness. This year the program will be held at the Incline Elementary School on Wednesday, Feb. 6The program starts with an indoor assembly reviewing the purpose and outline of the curriculum, followed by outdoor teaching stations covering how to dress properly, food and fuel and the "3 Ws" (Where am I going, Who am I going with, When will I be back?). The outdoor stations are interactive, encouraging the students to learn hands on about each survival topic. The first station is the "S.T.O.P" station, standing for Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Stop to take a minute and pause, don't panic. Next, Think. Use your head to 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? How are they feeling - tired or cold, weak or strong? 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, rocks, and/or ski equipment they may have with them.The third station teaches the children about using signals and how to make one. Once a shelter has been built, it is important make an effective signal to get attention. What can be used and what can they do to let people know where they are? Making themselves big and obvious, using a whistle and making an "x" in the snow with skis or rocks and branches are some ideas to create an obvious appearance that calls for attention."Hug-a-Tree" started in San Diego after a search for a nine-year old boy ended in a tragic death. In March of 1981, just one month following the incident, a group of people that were involved in the search, put together an assembly program for children focusing on winter wilderness survival tips, targeted to children ages 5-12.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. For more information on this life-saving program, log onto www.tahoenordicsar.com.
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