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Stay safe, take precautions and be aware of your surroundings

Key topics of safety and precautions to take before you venture out detecting. 

Image by Matt Walsh
Image by James Whitney
Image by Denise Jans
First Aid Kit
Image by Matt Walsh

So you’ve got your detector, you’ve got a place to go, and your pouch is empty, which you’re hoping to fix right away. One last thing before you head out is safety. There are some very simple guidelines that’ll help keep you safe and we’ve summarized them below.

1. Make sure someone knows where you’re going to be. If something should happen to you while you’re detecting, you want to be sure someone knows if you’re not back. Detecting with someone else is one way to address this, but someone should know roughly where you’re going to be and roughly when to expect you back.

 

2. Take your phone. There’s just really no reason not to. If there’s a chance of wet weather, you can always put it in a ziplock bag, but you need a way to contact someone if you need help.

 

3. Get permission first. EVERY piece of property is owned by someone and you could run the risk of being arrested (or even shot) if you’re on property you don’t have permission to detect. It’s not likely, but it could happen.

 

4. Know the boundaries of the property you’re going to detect. Residential properties are usually easy to figure out where one stops and the next one starts, but farms and large areas…not so much. You want to be sure you’re only on the property you have permission to detect. For example, if you stray into a national park or national battlefield, you can be arrested, your equipment seized, and your finds confiscated. Know before you go.

 

4. Know the season. Deer season where we are (central North Carolina) is Oct 15 - Jan 2. If you’re going to be detecting during that time on property where hunting is allowed, strongly consider wearing a blaze orange vest. Trust us, the coins and relics won’t be scared away if they see you in orange.

 

5. Cut or scrape? It’ll likely keep till you get home. Having a Band-Aid in your pouch or pocket isn’t a bad idea, but generally speaking a cut or scrape will be fine until you can get it cleaned and bandaged when you get home.

 

6. Snakebite? First, any snake you see would prefer that you each go your separate ways. IF you should get bitten, stay calm. First, determine if it’s a poisonous snake. We only have a couple in our area, so get familiar with what they look like. A snake that strikes, like a copperhead, rattlesnake, or water moccasin, will leave fang marks. A non-poisonous snake won’t/can't, because they don’t have fangs. Their teeth are tiny and numerous, but no fangs. If you’ve been bitten by a nonpoisonous snake, clean and disinfect the bite when you get home — you should be fine. If it turns out that you’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake, stay calm and call for help (because you remembered to bring your phone). Depending on where you are, you can make your way back to your vehicle or the closest people (remember the “take someone with you” suggestion?). You do not need to run because the venom doesn’t act that quickly and running will only accelerate its movement in the bloodstream. You have plenty of time to get help, so stay calm and act rationally. Forget the “suck the poison out” stuff — that’s strictly for Hollywood. 

 

7. Insects. Insects seem to know who is carrying a metal detector and gravitate toward them. Ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, etc. are all avoidable with some preparation. a) Treat yourself before you go. The best repellents out there are DEET-based, and work pretty well on most insects. If you know you’ll be in a "tick-heavy” area, treating your pants with permethrin spray can help. To be extra cautious, you can tuck your pant legs into your socks. b) Be careful where you go. Walking through a field of knee-high grass will almost certainly pick up some ticks, while digging in the woods can attract chiggers. Unfortunately, ticks and chiggers have evolved to be almost undetectable when they bite, so with them, you find out after the fact that you’ve been bitten. c) Check thoroughly when you’re back home. Because you won’t feel a tick bite when it happens, you need to find them later. A tick needs to be attached for several hours for any disease transmission to take place, so getting them off sooner is always better than later.

 

8. Poison ivy, etc. There are several plants that can irritate your skin if you come in contact with them, but poison ivy is probably the worst and one of the most common. Poison ivy has a distinctive three-leaf shape, has shiny leaves, and is almost always found growing against a tree, stone, or wall. Take a few minutes to look a picture of poison ivy so you’ll know what to avoid. Poison ivy oil is what causes the allergic reaction and when the oil gets on your skin it behaves like grease — simply washing your hands won’t get it off. You need to bring in some abrasion/friction. A washcloth or scrub sponge is adequate, but simple soap and water won’t get it off your skin. 

9. Animals. Be aware of cows/bulls, dogs, bear, deer, coyotes, and rabid wild animals while you are out detecting woods, house sites or fields. You never know when an animal has been exposed to rabies, has babies they are defending or just having a bad day feels like attacking a human! 

 

10. Boots. Do I really need boots? In short, yes. Aside from keeping your feet warm and dry (that’s sort of a given), they serve three other important purposes. First, it would take a mighty powerful snake to be able to bite through your boots — they provide a nice layer of protection. Second, stepping on something sharp can really be painful if you don’t have a solid sole shoe, and sneakers won’t do it for you. Third, when you need to put your weight onto the top of a shovel blade to drive it down into hard ground, anything less than a boot won’t cut it. You're applying a lot of force to a small area on the top of the shovel — a boot will spread that force over the entire sole. A sneaker or “lesser” shoe will leave you with sore and bruised feet.
(WRITTEN BY DOUG HARDY)

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