After a few deaths on Arizona hiking trails this summer, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board met last week to discuss whether to close the city’s hiking trails in extreme heat. The proposal was rejected after opposition from hikers, although the board did approve a ban on dogs on hiking trails when the temperature reaches 100 degrees.
One couple from Great Neck, New York, has made it their mission to educate people about the dangers of hiking in extreme heat conditions. Mark and Ellen Newman worked together with Yoram Epstein of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Douglas Casa of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute to create Ariel’s Checklist, which includes 10 points that every hiker and hike leader needs to know to prevent exertional heat stroke (EHS).
The list is named after their son, Ariel Yitzchak, their only child, who died in September 2014 of EHS while on a hike in the Judaean desert, shortly after arriving in Israel for his gap year.
“We have since learned that many people each year in Israel on an organized hike either die of exertional heat illness or dehydration and/or end up in the hospital with exertional heat illness or dehydration,” Mark Newman wrote in an email to Jewish News. “In order to help prevent such tragedies from happening in the future, we partnered with the world’s two leading scientists on exertional heat illness and created the world’s definitive document in common English (and in common Hebrew) on what is necessary to hike safely in the heat – or not, if it simply is not safe.”
According to Newman, Masa, part of the Jewish Agency for Israel headed by Natan Sharansky, will officially make Ariel’s Checklist the written standard against which all hikes must be judged for Masa members. Additionally, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism is in the process of making expert knowledge of Ariel’s checklist the requirement to receive a tour guide license.
Here is the list of the 10 guidelines included in Ariel’s Checklist, as provided by the Newmans:
1. Acclimate to the heat: Extensive exercise should be gradually phased in over a 14-day heat acclimation period.
2. Ensure the hike is appropriate to the skill level of the hikers.
3. Ensure hydration: Ensure that each hiker has an adequate amount of water for the duration of that particular hike, and the hiker should also be hydrated before and after the hike.
4. Dress appropriately: Wear loose-fitting, absorbent or moisture-wicking clothing, as well as a hat when hiking in daylight. Wearing waterproof clothing or clothing made out of material such as nylon that retains heat does not allow the body to evaporate perspiration freely and normally and is dangerous.
5. Ensure adequate sleep. Sleep loss has been shown to impair the body’s ability to regulate body temperature adequately.
6. Check the WBGT: Make certain the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) Index is below 89 degrees. The WBGT measures the heat stress in direct sunlight and takes into account temperature, humidity and heat from the sun. (A full version of “Ariel’s Checklist,” along with a chart that measures the WBGT is available at “Ariel’s Checklist” on Facebook.)
7. Ensure adequate work/rest cycles to avoid overheating.
8. Avoid midday hiking: Avoid hiking in the desert during the hottest part of the day.
9. Prepare for medical emergencies: Bring a variety of resources to help anyone suffering from the heat.
10. Insist on safety: Emphasize repeatedly to everyone before and during the hike that it is perfectly fine – and mandatory – to speak out at any time if they are not feeling well.