My dog and I, "skiing" near the head of Indian ArmSAR Teams use social media as part of their investigation into a missing person — and if they don’t, they have to start immediately.

In fact, two easy ways SAR teams can use social media as an investigative tool are as follows: the Social Media Action Plan, and the YourLo.ca/tion – social media search tools.

The Social Media Action Plan guides SAR teams through gathering information on the missing person, adding in the contact information that is not contained on most versions of ICS 301 and ICS 302 – including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.


One of the most important safety tips we give to backcountry enthusiasts –  before trip planning, before the 10 essentials, is to tell someone where you’re going. If nobody knows where you are, you may not even be reported missing – and when you are reported, SAR will not know when to start.

I hate to say this, but a missing person report with no “last known position” is almost always – and there are plenty of examples of this – going to end up in tragedy.

The Selfie

The simplest way to let people know where you’re going? The selfie. Much derided as a modern narcissistic impulse, it can serve as a valuable safety tool for the backcountry traveller.

So this is why we’re going to start promoting the #TrailHeadSelfie.

Take a selfie of you or your party at a trailhead, with some basic information on where you’re going and when to expect you back. If the very worst happens and you’re delayed, SAR teams will have a valuable starting point, including how you were dressed and a little information about your trip and the equipment you’re carrying.

I encourage SAR teams and public safety agencies to co-opt the hashtag and use it freely.


  • Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are perfect channels.
    • Tweets have a maximum length,
    • Instagram and facebook do not.
  • Share with your friends or “privately” if you’re concerned about privacy. IF SAR is activated your friend can help us by retrieving the picture.
  • Just a quick note with your start time, destination, turnaround time.


I shouldn’t have to say this, but SAR do not monitor social media. The advice here is that IF you’re reported missing by your friends or family, we will have a little bit of extra information to assist us.

No system is fool proof, posting a photo doesn’t replace any other preparatory activities; filing a trip plan, taking the 10 essentials are still part of backcountry common sense. Use the #TrailheadSelfie to remind yourself to be proud of your ability to plan for your trip.


For the photo in this article, I’d post the following

Heading for a short ski on the Indian River Road with my dog, back by 4pm

3 Comments on “#TrailHeadSelfie

  1. Great idea Michael. I’ll be using this in all my Adventure Smart presentations.

    Joe Kinch
    Arrowsmith SAR

  2. Great idea Mike.
    The easier for people to adopt the better ~ I’ll bring it up at the next SAR meeting we have.

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