Alberta Parks warns emergency crews becoming ‘overwhelmed’ with increase in rescue calls

As the long weekend approaches and people throughout Alberta prepare to go camping or hiking, officials are warning visitors to Alberta parks to come prepared, saying rescue crews have seen a dramatic spike in the volume of emergency calls they’ve received this summer.

Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Friday, Matt Mueller with Alberta Parks said there so far there has been a 20 per cent increase in park rescues this year over last.

Mueller, a public safety specialist for the Kananaskis region, said the increased number of calls is putting a strain on emergency services.

“We’re quick to deal with most of the calls – it’s the volume that gets us and also the time of day. Things tend to roll in at about the same time so we become overwhelmed,” Mueller explained.

He said he believes the current “COVID-19 era” is at least partially to blame for the spike.

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“Most people are keen to get out, they’re motivated,” he said, adding that “quite a few” of the visitors to Alberta parks lately seem to be new users.

Read more: Calgary man dies while hiking in Canmore area as 2 others injured in separate incidents

Earlier this month, a 30-year-old Calgary man died while in Kananaskis Country near Canmore after falling about 20 feet while hiking near Mount Yamnuska.

Just two hours later, first responders were called to Canmore again when a 24-year-old man fell from a slope and injured his head, and a third time — three hours after the second call — when a hiker suffered a fracture.

Mueller said the most common injuries they’ve seen are ankle injuries or knee injuries.

“Also lots of lower leg injuries, hands, elbows, wrists,” he added.

Most common mistakes visitors to Alberta parks are making

Mueller warned hikers need to make sure they aren’t biting off more than they can chew, warning many of the emergency calls they deal with are people who embarked on a more advanced trail than they had tried in the past.

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“Have a reasonable objective in mind,” Mueller advised. “If you feel like all of a sudden things are going sideways and you’re in over your head … Just turn around. It’s easier to go back the way you came than to push it.”

“We find people go a little too far and frequently they require help. Typically on the descent for some reason.”

Additionally, Mueller said some campers and hikers haven’t packed for a safe trip.

“We see a lot of people walk around and they hike with no pack at all – they literally carry nothing – and that’s troubling,” he said. “We like to see people carry enough gear to be self-sufficient.”

Mueller advised bringing lots of food and water, extra clothing and to be prepared for rain, cold temperatures and wind.

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