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
"Call 111 and ask for Police when:
- someone is badly injured or in danger
- there's a serious risk to life or property
- a crime is being committed and the offenders are still there or have just left
- you've come across a major public inconvenience, such as trees blocking a highway
- any of these things are happening now or have just happened.
If you can't decide if it's a real emergency and you're still worried, call 111 and ask us. We'll help you work out what to do.
If it’s not an emergency phone your local police station."
Did you know?
540 people are involved in backcountry search and rescues every year.
– There and Back, 2016
Quickly explore a section of this page
What can happen to cause an emergency situation?
- Severe injuries
- Environmental danger - flooding, avalanche, slips etc.
- Either you or a member of your group is missing
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.
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
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.
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.
Before you go, make sure everyone in your group has a form of communication, understands the risks and knows what to do in an emergency.
- 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.
Online 'outdoor intentions' form
Tell Someone Your Plans
Fill in your intentions form online and 'tell someone your plans' for your next trip.
Fill in now
How we can help
Get some of our helpful books and flyers
We have free pamphlets, books and equipment to help you find out more information about outdoor safety in New Zealand from our online store and resources search section.
Read more about your desired activity
Whether you walk, run, hunt or climb – we have specific information you need for your favourite activity – find them here
Find a a bushcraft course
Find a course provider in your area to help you learn the essential skills on our courses page.
What is #MakeItHomeNZ?
MSC encourage exploration and adventure in the incredible wilderness regions of New Zealand. We encourage you to participate, get out there and see what all the fuss is about. New Zealand is on the bucket list of so many people around the world for good reason.
We also encourage safe practices that ensure you make it home to your family and friends. We want you to make it home with adventurous stories, memories and photos. But, most of all we want you to make it home to do it all again next time. That's why on every advertisement, press release, video and resource we reaffirm our intent to help the 1.2 Million+ participants in outdoor recreation to make it home. You can help us spread this philosophy by sharing our resources and following the outdoor safety code so you make it home.
– Mike Daisley, CEO
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
Explore our insights
Find out more
Read Outdoor Safety Code
Find out more