In Case of Emergency

If there's an emergency that you can't handle without help, tell a ranger or phone the Park's emergency line at 1-800-732-0911.

 Personal Injury

Give first aid. Restore breathing and stop the bleeding, if necessary. Then, if the injury is severe, get help.

Many Park Rangers are qualified to give first aid, and many are Emergency Medical Technicians or Park Medics. Rangers routinely administer advanced life support to seriously ill or injured visitors, and then take them to the nearest hospital. If you take an injured visitor to a hospital please report the incident to a ranger as soon as possible, so that the safety hazard, if any, can be eliminated.

 Lost Person

If some member of your party went hiking and is now overdue, be patient. Give him a little extra time, because most hikes take longer than the hiker thinks they will. But if the missing person is hours overdue; if you have good reason to think he may have overestimated his strength and endurance; or if the weather turns bad and you know your missing hiker is not equipped to cope with it—then get help. If necessary, rangers will get out of bed to organize a search party, although they don't enjoy that sort of thing any more than you would.

When a child is lost your problem is more serious. Make a quick search of the area, but don't wait too long before you ask for help—especially if it's getting late in the day, or if the weather is turning bad. A small child lost in winter is an instant, full-blown emergency.

The behavior of a lost child who's too young to reason—say five years or younger—will often though not always follow a predictable pattern. They may choose the direction in which they believe safety lies and then take off, going as fast and as far as their strength permits. They may quickly become frightened, and hide when a hiker or searcher comes near; and they may not answer when called by name. They are more likely to travel uphill than down, and they may climb a slope that's both steep and rough. They will probably go farther and faster then you think. For all of these reasons, get help promptly.


Snakebite is unlikely, but it could happen. (Prevention of snakebite is discussed on page 24.) If someone in your party is bitten, try to keep him calm. See that he avoids unnecessary exertion. And get him to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

 Car Trouble

In spite of careful and prudent driving, an occasional Park visitor will strike a deer (or, very rarely, a bear) with his car. If that should happen to you, remember that a large wounded animal—either bear or deer—can be dangerous. Stay away from it; there's nothing you can do to help it. (Do not try to load a wounded deer into your car with the idea of taking it to a vet.) Just notice where you are (note the nearest overlook or milepost) and then report the incident to a ranger as promptly as you can.

Your car may break down somewhere along the Drive, or it may not start because of a weak battery, or you may run out of gas. A ranger may help you get started, and he can sometimes provide enough gas to get you to the nearest gas station. For more serious problems he will call a tow truck from a nearby town.

If your vehicle is broken down you can call for your own tow truck. If your vehicle is obstructing traffic or has been involved in an accident, please call Park Communications Center (1-800-732-0911) for assistance.

 How Can I Find a Ranger?

In the daytime, during the summer season, it's fairly easy. You can find a ranger at either Visitor Center. Concession personnel at the lodges or waysides will call a ranger for you. During the summer season campground entrance stations may be staffed during the day, and fairly late in the evening. Park entrance stations are usually staffed until 11 p.m. in summer; some of them, when the budget permits, are open all night.

Rangers patrol the Drive, but not on a fixed schedule. Patrol frequency depends on traffic, season, weather, and time of day—or in other words on how many visitors are likely to need help. A ranger might pass a given point twice an hour on a Saturday afternoon in summer, or not at all on a winter night.

If you can stop another driver, ask him to report your trouble to a ranger. if you're in trouble on a trail, ask another hiker to report it. (There's no harm in asking two different hikers to report your trouble. Rangers are in touch with each other, and with Headquarters, by radio. They aren't going to send two different rescue parties for you.)

The rangers maintain three offices in the Park, in addition to those at Headquarters and the Visitor Centers. They are usually open during "working hours."

Mile 31.5, Panorama. The North District Office is located in the Panorama facility.

Mile 51.2, Big Meadows. From the Drive, turn at the Big Meadows Wayside/Gas Station, take second right. The Central District Office is on your right just prior to entering the maintenance area.

Mile 73.2, Simmons Gap. Turn into the road on the east side of the Drive. The South District Office is on the right.

 Outdoor Telephones

If you can reach a telephone, calling Headquarters is the fastest way to get help. They can contact a ranger by radio and send him to where you are. The Headquarters telephone is staffed 24 hours a day for most of the year. Hours are reduced in the winter. For non-emergency assistance call 540-999-3500. For emergencies call 1-800-732-0911.

Mile 0.7, Front Royal Entrance Station. Emergency only phone located on outside of building.

Mile 4.6, Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. On the patio near the south end of the building.

Mile 22.1, Piney River Area. On outside of maintenance building.

Milepost 24, Elkwallow Wayside. The phone is in sight from the Drive.

Mile 31.5, Panorama. The phone is out of sight from the Drive, on the far side of the information station.

Mile 41.7, Skyland. The phone is outside the Recreation Hall (see map, page 143.)

Mile 51.2, Big Meadows. Three phones: at the Byrd Visitor Center parking lot, the gas station, and the campground shower building.

Mile 57.5, Lewis Mountain. The phone is outside the Campstore, about 0.2 mile from the Drive. (The campground road is closed in winter, but you can walk in.)

Mile 65.5, Swift Run Gap. There's a phone on the side of the entrance station.

Mile 79.5, Loft Mountain. Three phones: in front of the Wayside; at the Campstore; and at the campground entrance.

 You Say You're Locked In?

Each of the three sections of Skyline Drive—north, central, and south—has a sturdy gate at each end that can be closed and locked. The gates are closed when snow or ice begins to accumulate dangerously. Rangers try to make sure that no cars will be locked in, but they may overlook one that's parked away from the Drive. In hunting season one or more sections of the drive may be closed "During Hours of Darkness" to help control poaching. There's a sign at each end of the section to be closed, but you might overlook it. Or your hike may take longer than you expected. Or your definition of "Darkness" may be darker than that of the ranger who closes the gates. (Mine is.)

From late October to late April there's always a possibility, however remote, that you'll find yourself locked in and wanting out. What to do depends on where you are. When you reach a phone, call the Park's emergency line 1-800-732-0911 or call the general information line 540-999-3500.

North Section, north end (Mile 0.7). Emergency only phone located on outside of entrance station building.

North Section: south end (Thornton Gap, Mile 31.5). Walk a few steps beyond the gate and look to your left to see if the entrance station is open. If it is, ask the ranger to open the gate. If it isn't, walk across the overpass to the information station on the right and phone from the outdoor phone at the far side of the information station.

Central Section, north end (Panorama, Mile 31.6). Call Headquarters from the phone at the far side of the information station.

Central Section, south end (Swift Run Gap, Mile 65.5). Walk down the entrance road to the entrance station, which is just around the bend. There's a phone on the side of the building.

South Section, north end (Swift Run Gap, Mile 65.5). Cross the overpass, turn left, and walk down to the entrance station. Use the phone on the Side of the building.

South Section, south end (Rockfish Gap, Mile 105.4). Walk across both overpasses and phone from one of the motels or restaurants on the right.

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© Copyright 1997 Antony Heatwole, All rights reserved