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Safety Hints for Hiking in Country Parks

Prevention against Dengue Fever

The Basics
Preparation
Along the Way
Possible Hazards and hints to Hikers
Means to Seek Help
Phone Numbers

1. Introduction

  • Covering some 40 per cent of the territory, country parks in Hong Kong provide a great variety of trails for hiking or leisure walks.
  • Hiking requires no special skills but suitable training and preparation are necessary for the hikers to cope with the many-fold changes and prevent misfortunes from happening.
  • The safety guidelines and emergency measures in this booklet will help hikers to enhance safety in hiking.
  • The information contained in this booklet is for reference only. Please consult updated maps and other useful information when planning your route for each hiking trip.
  • It is important to have your safety always in your mind. In case of accident, seek assistance right away.

2. The Basics

  • Carefully plan and familiarise yourself with the route before setting out. Escape routes and contingency plans should be arranged in advance.
  • An experienced group leader who is familiar with the route is important to lead a journey. Assistants with experience would also be necessary for a large group. Ideally, an assistant leader should be available for every ten members.
  • Use only paths that are clearly way-marked and maintained.
  • Don't deviate from maintained path or make detours, doing so is easy to lose direction or run into danger.
  • Don't overexert your physical limits. Know your limits and do everything in your competence.
  • Don't go alone. It is always preferrable to hike in a group of four or above.

3. Preparation

Prior to the Journey.

  • Note the weather conditions, pay special attention to potential climatic hazards during the following periods:

Nov to Feb

  • A sudden drop in temperature may cause hypothermia;
  • gusty wind with low humidity may increase the risk of hill fire.

March to April

  • Poor visibility due to misty weather; hikers may get lost easily

May to Nov

  • Thunderstorm, typhoon and heavy shower may cause flooding and landslide;
  • High temperature may cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion
  • Before the journey, the leader should leave the following details to a contact person not participating in the event:

a) Nature of the journey, the route and the destination;

b) Date and time of the event, as well as the estimated finishing time;

c) Number of participants and their age;

  • Names of participants, contact phone number and address of their next of kin.
  • Participants should also inform the same to their family.
  • Sleep well on the night before the journey. Have a nutritious meal before setting out especially for a long walk.
  • Put on suitable clothes and footwear; avoid wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts; remember to take along a hat that can keep off the sun in summer and keep you warm in winter.
  • Suitable spare clothing and essentials including maps, compass, drinking water, food, torch, rain gear, radio, first-aid kit, whistle, mobile phone, notebook and pen, etc should be carried in your rucksack.
  • A mobile phone can be the bestmeans to call for assistance. However, it is important to note its coverage and blind spots such as mountain ridges and valleys. It is also important to bring enough backups for battery.

4. Along the Way

  1. Hiking Leader
    • Brief members the journey and the points to note before setting out.
    • Pay special attention to the way-marks and the adjacent environs to ensure that one is on the right track.
    • Note the physical conditions of the participants and watch out for signs of depresssion. If someone looks tired, allow the whole group to have a suitable break. Ensure that no one is straggling behind or straying away.
    • Watch out for any changes in your surrounding environment; listen to the weather bulletin and news report so as to take early precautionary measures.
    • Take note of all warning signs to avoid accidents.
    • If bad weather sets in, one should consider shortening or curtailing the planned route.
    • Should the group become overdue in case of emergency or sudden change, ask the contact person to relay your message.
    • Don't alter your route indiscriminately or attempt to take any overgrown short cuts. You may find yourself getting lost or stranded in a place where you can neither retreat nor proceed.
  2. Members
    • Respect your hiking leader. Should you wish to leave halfway, make suitable arrangement to avoid mishaps.
    • Don't eat wild fruit or drink untreated water from any stream.
    • Don't deviate from the maintained path or venture into bushes or forests;
    • Don't light fire or cook in non-designated areas. This illegal act would easily cause hill fire.
    • Avoid standing at the cliff edge or climbing onto rocks to take photos or admire the views.

5.Possible Hazards to Hikers

5.1  Slippery paths

  • Hikers sustain a fall easily when going down a slippery path. Wet rock surfaces, muddy paths and sandy badland pose similar hazards.

Safety Guidelines

  • Wear ankle boots with corrugated soles for hiking.
  • Bring a walking stick for use if necessary.
  • Whenever possible, avoid walking on wet rock surfaces, muddy paths and sandy badland.

Emergency Measures

  • When someone has slipped and got injured, check if he has any sprain, fracture, abrasion or other injuries. If necessary, give first aid right away
  • Fractures may be difficult to detect. If painful swelling occurs, curtail the planned journey.
  • If the injured can walk, he should do so with the aid of a walking stick or with the support of other companions. He should, by no means, walk by himself as this would aggravate his injury.
  • If the injured has a severe sprain or difficulty in walking, use a mobile phone or send someone to seek help. Move the injured to a shady, dry and flat ground; cover him with clothing to keep him warm and wait for the arrival of the rescue team.

5.2  Mountain Torrent

  • The devastating power and speed of mountain torrent should never be underestimated. A small stream may swell and converge into raging torrents in heavy rain and wash away travellers, resulting in casualties within minutes.

Safety Guidelines

  • Listen to the weather bulletin. Avoid hiking when the weather is unstable, especially when the rainstorm warning signal is hoisted.
  • Don't hike along a water course when it rains. Leave the water course without delay and head for a high spot ashore.
  • Don't stay at the water course for a rest, especially at its lower reaches.
  • Don't wade in the stream after heavy rain.
  • Never attempt to cross any inundated bridges. In case of heavy rain, leave the water course right away.

Emergency Measures

  • Rapid flows, turbid water with sand and mud are early signs of torrents. Leave the water course without delay.
  • If you fall into a rapid flow, grip or hold on to the rocks, branches or vines near the banks; try to get ashore and leave the river course right away.

5.3  Landslide

  • Landslides are not uncommon when a large amount of rainwater has soaked a natural or artificial slope during a downpour or after a few days of heavy rain.

Safety Guidelines

  • Avoid going near or staying around steep slopes during heavy rain or after a few days of heavy rain.
  • The oozing out of a large quantity of muddy water from the base or the weep holes of a slope indicates that the slope is saturated with water. Exposure of inner soil of the slope and appearance of new cracks on the slope are early signs of a landslide. Keep away from such slopes.
  • Don't proceed by stepping on loose mud if landslide blocks your way; retreat or seek another safe route to leave the scene right away.

Emergency Measures

  • Unless you are fully equipped and properly trained, don't try to resume life buried in a landslide. You should call for a fully equipped rescue team to avoid further casualties.

5.4  Hillfire

  • Hill fire advances rapidly upward and windward on a steep grass slope in dry weather. Never underestimate its devastating power.

Safety Guidelines

  • Listen to the weather bulletin. If the fire danger warning is red, handle kindling materials with great care.
  • Except at designated barbecue sites or campsites, never light a fire within country parks. Smokers should refrain from smoking; all cigarette-stubs or matches should be totally extinguished before discarding into litter boxes.
  • Hill fire is difficult to detect in daytime. Always pay attention to flying ashes or burnt smell. If a hill fire is spotted, leave the fire scene right away.
  • It is difficult to assess the spreading of hillfire. Don't risk continuing your journey in case of a fire nearby or you may get trapped in the fire.

Emergency Measures

  • Don't panic and keep calm.
  • Never attempt to attend a hill fire indiscriminately.
  • Note the following for a quick evacuation from the scene of fire:

a) The direction in which the fire spreads - avoid escaping in the same direction of the prevailing wind

b) The height and density of the vegetation nearby - Find a place with less vegetation for escape.

  • The gradient of the paths nearby - Choose the one which is easiest for escape.
  • It is easier and quicker to escape through existing paths.
  • If the fire is imminent and there is no way out, you should cover your exposed skin with wet clothing and then make for the burnt area. This can minimize the chance of getting injured.
  • Never run uphill if the situation permits.
  • Don't run into shrubs or grassgrown area, fire usually spreads rapidly and the temperature may soar in these areas..

5.5  Lightning stroke

  • Lightning normally strikes at the highest point of an object and the electric current is conducted to the ground via the least resistant path.
  • Hikers attacked by lightning usually have the symptoms of muscle spasm, scalds, suffocation and cardiac arrest.

Safety Guidelines

  • Listen to the weather bulletin. Avoid hiking when the weather condition is unstable, especially when the thunderstorm warning signal is hoisted.
  • Wear shoes or boots with rubber soles in outdoor areas.

Emergency Measures

  • Don't stand at hilltop or near any object with high conductivity. As trees and poles can easily be striken by lightning, give them a wide berth as far as possible. After striking an object, the electricity current of lightning will spread through the ground. Therefore, Don't lie on the ground, especially wet ground surface. Squat and minimize the contact area with the ground as far as possible.
  • Stay away from iron fences or other metal objects. Don't touch any antenna, water pipes, iron mesh or other similar metal installations. Remove all metal objects (e.g. gold ornaments) from your body.
  • Take shelter in a building whenever possible.
  • Don't swim or engage in other water sports. Leave the water and seek shelter right away.
  • Don't touch any inflammable materials, such as kerosene or liquefied petroleum gas.

5.6  Getting Lost

  • It is easy to get lost during bad weather or when not properly prepared Safety Guidelines
  • Pay attention to the current weather bulletin and avoid hiking if the weather is bad.
  • Choose only maintained paths that are clearly waymarked and plan the route before setting out carefully.
  • Remember to bring all necessities including maps, compass, drinking water, food, torch, rain gear, radio, first-aid kit, whistle, mobile phone, notebook and pen.

Emergency Measures

  • Finding your location with the use of a compass and a map.
  • Recall the route you have covered and retrace your steps to your original position. If this is not possible , Stay Put and wait for rescue.
  • Don't go further, this would waste your energy. If you must advance further, take note of all the paths that you have tried. Avoid steep ravinesas, it is not easy to locate oneslef in this topography.
  • Head for a high spot if you fail to identify your location. It is easier to identify directions there and to be discovered by the rescue team..
  • In case cold weather sets in but you do not have sufficient warm protective clothing or if thunderstorm or hill fire occur, leave the high spot until the situation improves and go back to the high spot again and wait for rescue.
  • Give out international distress signal.

(See paragraph 6.1)

5.7  Heat Stroke

  • Heat stroke is caused by one's inability to regulate body temperature through transpiration at high ambient temperatures. The victim feels hot, dizzy, uneasy and even becomes unconscious. When the temperature exceeds 40C, the victim's skin will be dry and flushed; breath and pulse rate will increase. In some serious cases, the victim will suffer from shock. Lower his body temperature and seek medical assistance right away.
  • Overheat of the body will also lead to heat exhaustion which usually occurs when one is engaging in sports in hot humid weather, especially when one fails to replenish his body fluid and salt lost through sweating. The symptoms are exhaustion, headache, dizziness, nausea, muscle spasm, paleness, clammy skin, rapid but weak breath and pulse.

Safety Hints

  • Have good rests during the journey. Don't overwork as this would lead to exhaustion.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Drink lots of water.

Emergency Measures

  • Move the victim to a cool shaded place. Remove his clothing and have him lie down with feet elevated; give him lots of fluids if he is conscious. Avoid the victim being surrounded by people. Continue to replenish him with drinks and seek medical treatment right away.
  • If necessary, employ other body-cooling techniques like immersion in water, wetting clothing and fanning until the symptoms disappear.
  • If the victim sweats heavily and convulse, serve him with salt water in the ratio of one tea spoon of salt to one litre of water.

5.8  Hypothermia

  • It is caused by drop of body temperature due to lack of sufficient clothing in a cold place. Even in summer, rapid drop in temperature due to sudden cold rain or rainstorm will also cause hypothermia.
  • Symptoms

Fatigue, exhaustion, clammy skin, stumbling, shivering, muscle spasms, stammering and hallucinating etc.

Safety Guidelines

  • Have a good sleep on the night before the journey. Don't join the journey if you are not feeling well.
  • Have a nutritious meal before setting out. Have high energy food like chocolate during the trip
  • Bring warm protective and rain-proof clothing and a spare set of clothes for change.
  • Rest at intervals; Don't overload yourself with bulky object.
  • Don't overstrain to conserve energy.

Emergency Measures

  • Seek refuge from the rain and change wet clothes right away.
  • Cover your head, face, neck and body with clothing or sleeping bag to keep warm. Take hot drinks and high calorific food to maintain body temperature.

5.9  Snakebite

  • Common venomous snakes in Hong Kong include banded krait, many - banded krait, king cobra, cobra, bamboo pit viper. They are more active in spring, summer and autumn.

Safety Guidelines

  • Wear long trousers and ankle boots.
  • Use only the maintained paths; Don't venture into new paths or walk into overgrown area or mixed forest.

Emergency Measures

  • If you see a snake, keep calm and still. Let the frightened snake run away.
  • Note the following in case of snakebite:
  1. Don't cut , suck or wash the wound. Keep the victim lie down at rest. Avoid alcoholic drinks.
  2. Don't elevate the wound or make unnecessary movement.
  3. If possible, apply a firm bandage to the part above the bite. If the wound is on the limb, you may apply a broad bandage to the part above the wound.
  4. Pacify the victim and rush him to a hospital for treatment. If possible, identify the type, colour and band of the venomous snake. If the snake responsible for the bite has been caught, bring it along to the hospital so that the right antivenom can be used.

5.10  Bee Sting

  • Bees, hornets or wasps are not uncommon in the countryside. Be careful not to touch their combs, this would avoid being attacked and stung by their swarm.

Safety Guidelines

  • Don't venture into new paths; avoid going into bushes and ferns where insects and wasps inhabit.
  • Don't disturb combs. Never strike bushes with branch or stick.
  • Spray insect-repellent on your body and clothes. Avoid using aromatic body lotion

Emergency Measures

  • If there are only one or two hornets hovering above, ignore them and keep going as usual. If there is a comb blocking the way, circumvent it and proceed.
  • When attacked by a swarm of hornets, squat still and cover your head and neck with outerwear for protection, or lie curled on the ground and evacuate slowly after the swarm has dispersed.
  • If the sting is left in the wound, remove it with a pair of forceps. Don't squeeze the poison gland to prevent any residue poison from entering the body. You may apply a cold compress and apply it lightly to the wound to soothe the pain temporarily.
  • Seek medical treatment right away if stung seriously.

5.11  Dangerous Plants

  • Some common plants in the wilderness are harmful to hikers. For example :

Wax Tree - skin allergy

Prickly Ash- scratches

Wild Fruits - Poisonous; can be fatal if eaten.

Safety Hints

  • Avoid going into dense bushes.
  • Wear long sleeved clothes and long trousers and bring a pair of gloves.
  • Protect your head and face or exposed skins with handkerchief or clothing if you have to pass through a bush.
  • Always exercise extreme care when touching an unknown plant. Don't touch the Wax tree.
  • Beware of thorns when gripping on a plant.
  • Wild fruits are similar and can be poisonous. Don't attempt to eat them

Emergency Measures

  • Seek immediate medical treatment if skin allergy occurs after touching a plant or you are poisoned by wild fruit.

6. Means to Seek Help in the Wilderness

  • Give first aid to the injured in the mountains.
  • Send out continuous international distress signal (see Para. 6.1) until the arrival of a rescue team.
  • If possible, at least one member should stay behind to accompany and look after the injured while the other two should go together to seek help.
  • To avoid delay in rescue, the person who goes to seek help should write down the essential information to reduce the inaccuracy of the distress message delivered by him due to tension and his unclear verbal communication:
  • Essential information to be provided while seeking for help:
    1. Nature/cause of accident
    2. Time/location of accident
    3. Location/Grid reference/the number of the nearest distance post (paragraph 6.2)
    4. Terrain/special landmarks in the vicinity
    5. Personal details of the injured including his name, age, sex, telephone number and address
    6. extent of injury
    7. First aid given
    8. Weather condition
    9. Condition/Intention of other members
    10. Other relevant information

International Distress Signals

  • Send out six long blasts within one minute; pause for one minute and repeat the same. Don't stop until the rescue team comes (keep on giving out the signals even if the rescue team has discovered you from a far distance so that the rescuers can identify your exact position).
  • Ways of sending signals:
    1. Blowing a whistle
    2. Reflecting light with a mirror or metal sheet
    3. Flashing with your torch light at night
    4. Waving colourful or shiny clothes to attract attention
  • SOS Distress Signal

If possible, use stones or tree branches to form the characters of SOS (Save Our Soul) on a flat and open space.

Distance Post

  • The Agriculture and Fisheries Department has erected distance posts at intervals of 500m along long-distance hiking trail such as MacLehose Trail, Lantau Trail and Hong Kong Trail for users to identify their location. In case of emergency, they can state their position by referring to the number on the nearest post, thus facilitating search and rescue operation.

Emergency Call Number : 999


7. Phone numbers of country parks' offices and visitor centres

Hill Fire control centre Hot Line : 2720 0777
(A 24-hour hill fire hot line in operation during the dry season from October to April)

Ranger Offices
(Enquiries on hiking routes during office hours)
Sai Kung 2792 3730
Hong Kong Island 2552 7907
New Territories (Central) 2427 2670
Lantau Island 2984 8191
New Territories (West) 2477 4896
New Territories (North) 2662 5015

Country Park Visitor Centres
Aberdeen Visitor Centre 2555 2179
Tai Mo Shan Visitor Centre 2498 9326
Sai Kung Visitor Centre 2792 7365
Plover Cove Country Park
Visitor Centre 2665 3413
Lions Nature Education Centre2792 2234
Shing Mun Visitor Centre 2498 1362

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Last Review Date : 27 August 2013