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 your local police station.

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What is an emergency situation?

  • Severe injuries
  • Environmental danger - flooding, avalanche, slips etc.
  • Either you or a member of your group is missing
  • Stranded?
What is NOT an emergency situation
  • Being late to return home
  • Forgetting something
  • Needing to contact someone at home

Search and rescue services would rather deploy a rescue unit and find out the person has already returned, than to not go at all. 


Did you know?

540 people are involved in backcountry search and rescues every year...
There and Back, 2016

Find out more stats below:


What you need to know

If something does go wrong, provided you’ve left your intentions with a trusted contact and they’ve raised the alarm when you don’t return, 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
  • Take sufficient supplies
  • Tell someone your plans
  • Plan your trip

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)
  • 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 Satelitte 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
  • Use movement
  • 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.

No Communications?

  • 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.



Helpful hint

Always leave your intentions with someone before you go. It makes it easier for emergency services to come and find you.

Read more 

Helpful links

NZ Search and Rescue Find out more about how to deal with an emergency situation.

Find out more

LANDSAR - Find out more about how to deal with an emergency situation.

Find out more

NZ Police - Read how to keep safe in multiple languages.

Find out more

Personal Locator Beacons - Find out more about using or activating a distress beacon.

Find out more

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