Valley-based group launches ‘Arizona Whistle Initiative’ to help keep hikers safe

The safety campaign comes after the death of two hikers on the Spur Cross trail last year.
Arizona Foothills 911 has created to "Arizona Whistle Initiative" and will be handing out safety kits that include whistles during an event on Sat., April 22.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 8:10 AM MST
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CAVE CREEK, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) - After the tragic deaths of two hikers last year on the Spur Cross trail just north of Cave Creek, a local group is taking action to hopefully save lives.

You may remember 32-year-old Dr. Evan Dishion, who passed away while hiking on the trail last September. The young father died of heat exhaustion and heat stroke after getting lost. Then weeks later, 60-year-old Kathleen Patterson’s body was sadly found not far from the trail. That day, she texted her husband that she somehow got lost.

READ MORE: Doctor who died while hiking near Cave Creek leaves behind wife, 3-month old baby.

Now the Valley-based group Arizona Foothills 911 is launching the “Arizona Whistle Initiative” in their memory and it has an event scheduled for Saturday, April 22. It will be handing out safety kits that include storm whistles.

The event is scheduled for April 22 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The event is scheduled for April 22 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.(Arizona Whistle Initiative)

“For me, I think that people realize because of their deaths that we are not infallible,” said Sunny Parker with Arizona Foothills 911. “I don’t think their memories will ever be forgotten, and as far as Arizona Foothills 911 is concerned, we will ensure that they are not forgotten.”

The whistles are definitely not toys and can reach 120 decibels. The CDC says that’s equivalent to standing near sirens. The idea is if you get lost on the trails, the whistles will make it easier for you to be found by search and rescue crews, especially if you lose cell service.

It is suggested you cover you own ears if you do have to use the whistle, as it can damage your hearing. The instructions in the kits suggest using what’s called the “3 for 3″ whistle pattern in an emergency. That includes covering your ears, if possible, then issuing three strong, three second blasts. Pause, then repeat the pattern as needed.

“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this whistle can save somebody’s life,” said Shawn Gilleland, the PIO for the organization and Rural Metro Fire. “But it’s also important to share the message. Any time that rescuers are requested to go out and do a mountain rescue or a trail rescue or a water rescue, we are actually putting rescuers lives in danger, too.”

While this is an important reminder, the whistles are just one tool to use while spending time outdoors.

“Wearing the right footwear, wearing the right clothing. Having some type of sun protection, whether that be a hat or some other light clothing that covers you so you don’t get sunburned,” said Gilleland. “That’s another danger of being out. But if you’re ill-prepared for being out there, it will just intensify the effects of being out in the elements.”

A good rule of thumb is to turn around on the trail once you are halfway done with your water. Here are more hiking safety tips as temperatures continue to climb.

Tap/click here for more on Arizona Foothills 911.