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What to Do When Lost or Separated from Your Group (STOP Acronym)

Getting lost or separated from a group during a campout or hike can be a scary experience. But knowing how to STOP can help you stay safe until you are found or reunited with your group. So before going on an adventure, review the STOP acronym and what it stands for.

Stay put, Think, Observe, and Plan. Stay calm, be prepared, and trust your knowledge and observations. By following these steps, you can increase your chances of staying safe until you are found or reunited with your group.

The STOP Acronym Explained

STOP Acronym

S – Stay put: When you realize that you are lost or separated from your group, the first thing to do is to stay put. It’s easier for rescuers to find a stationary person than one who is moving around. Find a place that is not hazardous, and stay there. If you have some water and a snack, take them and rest. Do not panic, but try to remain calm.

T – Think: After staying put, the next thing to do is to think about what resources you have and what you can do to survive if the situation extends into overnight. Develop confidence by considering your situation and being prepared. Do you have a map, compass, or GPS device with you? Can you make a fire or shelter if necessary? Consider all the options and make a plan.

O – Observe: Take note of your surroundings. Look for shelter from the cold or storms. If it’s getting dark, find a place where you can make a fire or set up a shelter. Be aware of any hazards in the area, such as dangerous animals or cliffs. Look for any signs of civilization, such as a road or a trail.

P – Plan: After observing your surroundings, determine what you can do to conserve energy and be as comfortable as possible. Make a plan based on your knowledge and observations. If you have a map or GPS device, try to determine your location and the best way to get back to your group. If you have food and water, ration them so they will last longer. Don’t panic, but rely on your knowledge and observations to survive until you are found or reunited with your group.


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