Being safe in the mountains is no joke. Every year, people lose their lives because of their own stupidity. It’s not just about you; taking risks yourself means you’re forcing other people to take risks if you have to be rescued.
There are some cardinal rules for the backcountry:
• Experience is necessary. Don’t go unless you or someone leading your group is trained, experienced, and capable – period.
• Either make sure you know, or go with someone who knows the local terrain.
• Know where you’re going, how to get there, and how to get out. Don’t guess – it could cost you a night in the wilderness at –30 degrees, or even your life.
• Never, ever, travel alone.
• Read the Backcountry Report posted at the ski hill at the top of the Bear or White Pass, visit the Canadian Avalanche Association, and never travel in conditions of “Considerable” or above danger.
• Plan your trip and make sure someone in town knows when you’re due back.
• Take adequate food and water.
• Have the gear you need – no exceptions. You need PIPS, rescue beacons, a shovel, a probe and warm clothing.
• Stay where you are if you get separated from your group and never leave a member of your group alone.
• Cell phones and whistles are light and may save your life, or someone else’s.
• Always respect what you’re dealing with, and never forget that if it comes down to you against the wilderness, you’re gonna lose every time.
• Public drinking. It’s illegal, and it is a big pet peeve of the local RCMP. Make no mistake, if you’re caught with a drink and wandering the streets of Fernie, you’ll be fined – and fines start at $100. That’s one expensive beer.
• Same goes for booze in the car. It’s a no-go. Keep it in the trunk if you’re headed on a trip or to someone’s place.
• Never, ever drink and drive. You might think it’s a small town and you can get away with it in “the sticks”. You’re wrong, drivers who provide a failing breath sample above 0.08 per cent BAC or refuse to provide a breath sample at the roadside will face an immediate, 90-day driving ban and a $500 fine. As well, they will have their vehicle impounded for 30 days. They may also face criminal charges. Drivers caught once in the “warn” range (between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent BAC) in a five-year period will face an immediate, three-day driving ban and a $200 fine; a second time, a seven-day ban and a $300 fine; and a third, a 30-day ban and a $400 fine.
• Public drug use. Same as drinking – don’t do it. You could face a hefty fine.
• Don’t assume your rights will be respected by the RCMP. Most are respectable however a small percentage are young men looking to prove something while abusing their position. Be safe and do not question their authority, or anticipate a possible bad experience.
• Using someone’s ski pass. It’s landed more than one local without a pass for the year. If the ski hill is really miffed, they’ll ban you from the area for good and have you charged with theft.
• Fernie has a noise bylaw. In other words, turn it down after 11pm unless you want a visit from the RCMP.
• Parking in the wrong spot could earn you a tow. Snow removal is serious business here and the City will tow you if your car is on the wrong side of the street or in a “no parking after 3 am” area. For more info, contact the City at 250-423-6817.
• Dogs running amuck. Leash your dog for for pete’s sake, clean up the poop. You could be fined if you don’t. And while you’re at it, buy a city license; it’s inexpensive ($25) and it could result in your lost pet finding their way home.
Health and well being
Fernie has an awesome team of health care professionals. Regardless of how serious your ailment – from sore muscles, to the sniffles, to a torn ACL (knock wood), you’ll be treated with the best care around. Many of the health care workers in the area are doing the same things you are day after day – so they can relate.
Fernie has a number of excellent medical clinics, and most doctors in town will see seasonal workers as long as you have medical coverage. Unless you want to spend the season paying medical bills, make sure you have adequate coverage.
Canadians from other provinces are eligible for coverage in BC for three months; after that you need to apply for your BC Care card. Overseas visitors need travel insurance, purchased in your home country.
Let’s get something straight off the bat – the Emergency ward at the Fernie Hospital is for emergencies only. Makes sense, right? Well, every year, dozens of people clog up the system by heading through the Emergency doors for stuff that can be easily treated in a clinic. And not to mention, the treatments are usually pretty expensive. Unless it’s a true emergency, try a clinic first.
Do we really have to remind everyone to use condoms? It seems so simple, yet BC has one of the highest rates of STD transmission in Canada.
Get tested for Gonorrhea, Chlamidia and Syphilis –the three most common STDs – if you’re having sex. You may also want to get tested for HIV. Testing is inexpensive and it’s especially important in a resort town, where people may have multiple sexual partners within a season, and where, let’s face it, you don’t really know that much about all the great new people you just met.
OPT Clinics, (Options For Sexual Health) is a confidential, unbiased and nonjudgmental service open to everyone in Fernie on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Fernie Health Unit. A safe and friendly environment that provides access to low cost birth control, pregnancy testing and counseling, pap tests, and sexually transmitted disease testing and counseling. For more information visit www.optionsforsexualhealth.org or call 250-423-8274.
In a small town people often feel that “it can’t happen here”. The fact is, it can and it does. By all means have fun but keep in mind that, especially if you are a female, there are cretins in every town, city, and backwater in the world and you could come across one in Fernie easily.
• No means no. Period.
• You can always go to a RCMP officer if you feel threatened, either on the street or at home.
• If you get a bad feeling about someone, go with it. Your instincts are probably right.
• Yell, scream, and make a scene. Attackers hate that.
• Smack your assailant with anything you can find – bag, shoe, whatever.
• Remember what they look like so you can report it to the RCMP.
• Walk with friends at night.
Mountain View Dental – 250-423-7764
Dr. Kahane’s Office – 250-423-6838
Dr. Meyer’s Dental Clinic – 250-423-4659
Sparling East Medical Centre – 250-423-4442
Rocky Mountain Health Clinic – 250-423-4453
Fernie District Hospital
Fernie District Hospital – 250-423-4453
Poison Control Centre – 1-800-567-8911
Community Services – 250-423-8266
Home Support – 250-423-8265
Fernie Optometric Clinic – 250-423-4467
Drug and Alcohol Referral – 1-800-663-1441
Alcoholics Anonymous – 250-423-2131
Addiction Services – 250-423-4423
Website for emergency preparedness information – www.pep.bc.ca