Emergency situations can happen at any time in the outdoors. The New Zealand Police, Rescue Coordination Centre and Land Search and Rescue (SAR) provide free emergency assistance in the outdoors. It's important to understand when their services are required, and how to reach them.
NZ's emergency number is 111
If it’s not an emergency, phone yourlocal police station.
If something does go wrong, if you are carrying a communication device such as a PLB or a satellite messenger device or happen to be in cell coverage you’ll be able to easily raise the alarm. One of the advantages of satellite devices that provide online tracking is that if you are unable to raise the alarm, rescuers can see their last known location. This makes finding the device carrier a lot easier.
Tell someone your plans
Take sufficient supplies
If you do not have a way to contact anyone you will need to wait for someone else to call the Police, providing you’ve left your intentions with a trusted contact and they know what to do.
When an alarm has been raised, you can expect search and rescue to come looking for you. Help them do their job by:
Staying where you are – don’t move, it makes their job harder
Put on your spare clothes, stay warm, keep eating and drinking
Find shelter (close by), by either putting up your tent or staying in the hut if you’re at one
Watch Lost? Survive and be Found
Use the STAR Model for making decisions:
STOP: Take a breath, sit down and remain calm
THINK: Look around you, listen, brainstorm ideas
ASSESS: Evaluate the options and their potential consequences
RESPOND: Take the best alternative.
New Zealand's Emergency Phone Number = 111
How to call Search and Rescue
Activate 406 Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
Press the SOS button on your GPS tracker (such as an inReach or Spot)
Call mountain radio service and request SAR
Call using a hut radio or notify a hut warden
Call Police on 111 from a cellphone
Call on a Satellite phone using the following numbers:
- North Comms (covers New Zealand north of Turangi): 09 571 2800
- Central Comms (covers North Island south of Turangi): 04 381 2000 (ask for Comms)
- South Comms (whole of the South Island): 03 363 7400 (ask for Comms)
See the communications section to make sure you can reach them when you are out there.
What you need to tell them
Be prepared to provide details about:
WHAT: Is someone lost, or injured? (and how urgent)
WHERE: The location/ terrain of you and the people in need. A map grid reference or GPS coordinates helps.
WHO you are and how you can be contacted
WEATHER CONDITIONS of the area
INJURIES: details of their condition
MISSING/ OVERDUE: where/when they were last seen, what they were doing and what they look like
SUPPLIES: what you have with you.
Watch Give a Grid Reference
What to do while you wait
Place bright coloured items in open areas and hill tops, or tie to a stick and shake
If you hear a helicopter in at night, shine a torch, cellphone or lighter (even very weak light sources show prominently when night vision equipment is used)
If you hear searchers, make as much noise as possible with a whistle, rocks shouting or safely ﬁre three* gunshots. Continue this until searchers have reached you.
Use a mirror to reflect light in the direction of searchers
Make arrows in an open area from rock or sticks pointing to your location.
Send a member of your party to get help
Leave visual cues to lead to your location.
Whether you stop and await assistance, or move to reorient yourself depends on the situation. Take time to consider this.
Always leave your intentions with someone before you go. It makes it easier for emergency services to come and find you.