New locator signs help trail users share location with emergency responders

City installs 658 markers across all city trails to easily convey hikers, cyclists locations during emergencies. Courtesy of the city of Santa Clarita
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With a new emergency location system installed across 94 miles of trails, hikers and cyclists will now be easier to find during emergencies.

The city of Santa Clarita recently installed a total of 658 markers every eighth of a mile on all city-owned trails, which include bike paths and hiking trails.

“Our City Council has worked over the years to ensure that Santa Clarita has a large trail system for residents to enjoy,” said Communications Manager Carrie Lujan. “This emergency locator system will increase the safety of the thousands of residents who use the miles and miles of trails. By cutting down the amount of time it takes for emergency responders to reach those in need, these markers are a potentially life-saving resource.”

How it works

To access emergency assistance, trail users would have to find the nearest signpost and share with operators a designated number that is posted on each marker.

From there, the operator will be able to pinpoint the location and know where to dispatch emergency personnel, which may include fire, sheriff and search and rescue departments. This is possible through a GIS map that first responders have access to, according to Jeff Morrison, project development coordinator with the city.

The more than 600 markers are not available on the paseos or forest and county trails.

How it came to be

The locator system was inspired by a similar method now used in Dallas, said Morrison. In collaboration with the multiple city divisions, including Parks and Recreation, Communications and trails maintenance crews, research was conducted to create a modern, digital map layer that emergency responders can access via an app.

“We started doing research about two years ago,” said Morrison. “There wasn’t a particular event or incident that caused this other than improving safety. With a web-based system, we’re able to give law enforcement links so they can put it on their phones or vehicles, as well as hard copies in case the website is down.”

Morrison said since the installment of the markers, no emergency calls have been made but trail users have already found other effective uses for the signposts. For example, runners have used the markers to help them track their mileage. Others have used the markers to help maintenance crews locate broken fences that need replacement.

Other safety efforts

The emergency locator system is only part of the city’s recent efforts to improve safety across its open space.

Last year, Santa Clarita installed security cameras in the parking lot at the Towsley Canyon Trailhead to help deter would-be thieves from breaking into hikers’ parked vehicles.

When it comes to lighting, Morrison said the city receives regular requests from people wanting to see lights on trails.

Due to having 94 miles of trails and certain restrictions due to wildlife, “we can’t really add more lighting,” he said. “Most of our trails have ambient light from the surroundings.”   

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