A stroll turned scary for a 12 year old when she became lost in the woods just before dark

Posted On Friday June 11, 2021
Police Communicator Celine Marchand
Police Communicator Celine Marchand

A stroll turned scary for a 12-year-old girl on May 15 when she became lost in the woods in Kanata.

She used a disconnected cell phone to call 911.

Police Communicator Celine Marchand answered her call around 9 pm, when it was just getting dark. “A lot of people don’t realize a phone without a sim card can dial 911,” she said.

The girl was frightened and upset, but Celine, who was hired by Ottawa Police in January 2021 told her, “I won’t hang up until you get home.” That helped calm her down.

Celine could see the girl’s location on her map, but she couldn’t see the paths in the forest. She asked the girl what kind of phone she had. It was an iPhone. “I have one too, so I looked to see what apps could work on a disabled phone.” She came up with the compass app and told the girl to head south.

About fifteen minutes later, the girl got back to her neighbourhood. A police officer was sent to her house to make sure she was okay.

“She was very brave,” said Celine, “and she did the right thing, carrying a phone and calling 911.”

Constable Chris Jones, a west-end patrol officer suggests when walking in the woods, bringing some easy-to-carry items:

  • wear bright colours
  • pocket knife
  • water
  • food
  • thermal foil blanket
  • flashlight
  • first aid kit
  • matches
  • whistle
  • a fully charged phone and a spare battery

“They are light, don’t take up much room and are easy to keep in a pack,” he says. “They will make you a lot more comfortable if your outing takes a turn for the worse and you’re waiting for help to arrive.”

Cst. Jones reminds trail users remote locations may not have phone reception.  “That’s why you should always let someone know exactly where you are going and how long you will be. If you can’t call for help, they can if you don’t return when you said you would.”

Victoria Walsh is an avid hiker with her own website, www.girlgonegood.com to help people learn about hiking, with a focus on safety and environmental responsibility.

“We are fortunate enough to have thousands of kilometres of trails for all skill and interest levels all around us,” says Victoria. “Larger organizations like Parks Ontario, NCC, conservation authorities, and land managers post safety insights and tips to make the most of our outdoor experiences.”

Her website offers tips around wildlife, following public health protocols for ticks, trail safety during hunting season and no-trace hiking for the environment.

Enjoy nature and stay safe!