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3 sisters found: What to do if you're lost in the woods

Megan, Erin, and Kelsi Andrews-Sharer were found Thursday after multi-day search-and-rescue mission. 

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    This undated family photo released by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office shows Megan Margaret Andrews-Sharer (c.) of Milwaukee; with sisters, Erin (r.) and Kelsi.
    Teton County Sheriff’s Office/AP
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Three sisters started hiking in Teton National Park on June 30, 2015. Their plan was to return to their car on July 5th, but when the group failed to arrive, local authorities began a search.

After days of combing through the Wyoming wilderness with a team of up to 70 to 80 people, the campers were found today, according to the website created by their family and friends.

“The girls were found by search teams and are in a helicopter on their way back to civilization to reunite with the family,” reads the latest update on the website.

Throughout the search, the family remained calm. “We have every reason to believe the girls are lost and will be found soon,” they posted three days after Megan, Erin, and Kelsi went missing.

The website reassured those wondering that the girls had a “three-person tent” to protect them from exposure and "lots of extra food (including dessert for every day of the trip).”

Proper food and tents are essential to survival in the wilderness. In addition, remember the acronym STOP if you become lost or injured while hiking, says the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

S: Sit down. This is a key part of being calm.

T: Think. Answer key questions: When will the sun set? How did you get here? What is the weather like? How much water do you have?

O: Observe. Look at your compass and map. Try to determine where you are and attempt to reorient yourself. 

P: Plan. Based on where you are, decide if you can make it to a known spot before dark. If so, proceed and mark the trail by sticking sticks into the ground or tearing off pieces of a bandana. If not, the rule of thumb for firewood is to collect as much wood as you think you’ll need for a night and then make 10 more identical piles. Keep in mind that firewood is much easier to collect in daylight.

Other tips for wilderness safety:

  1. Know how to use and bring a GPS, topographic map, and compass – "Global Positioning Systems (GPS) units have become very affordable and can be extremely useful."
  2. Use landmarks – Pick out landmarks that you’ll remember and keep them in mind, especially as darkness falls.
  3. Bring flashlights with bulbs and batteries – If you do get lost, a flashlight can help you shelter, gather, firewood, or signal to searchers
  4. Know when the sun will set, and wear a watch.
  5. Carry a cellphone, and have a contact person.
  6. Bring waterproof matches and a fire starter.
  7. Have a pack with proper food, clothing, and water.
  8. Leave word with someone about your whereabouts and expected time of return – Make sure your contact person has the phone numbers of the local Forest Ranger and emergency dispatch.

The search team began with helicopters, search dogs, and horses. More crew and volunteers were added on each day, finally totaling almost 80 people plus helicopters, search dogs, and horses. 

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