Heading out running (whether alone or in a group) is lots of fun. However, having a little bit of safety knowledge can go a long way. On this page we cover some basic safety information you should know that could helpful when you need it most.
We have broken down the information into 3 categories: navigation, weather, animals.
Distance posts on major trails
Many people when out hiking or running will see these markers as shown below:
These are distance posts and are provided to help hikers and runners using the trail. If an emergency arises someone can inform rescue services the number of the nearest post to help indicate his or her location. The distance posts are installed at about 500m intervals. Usually the beginning letter is the name of the trail. E.g. ‘M039’ would be on the Maclehose Trail. ‘H025’ would be on the Hong Kong Trail etc. The Letter ‘C’ is at the beginning for every Country Trail.
An example below
As you can see here the distance posts are marked with a small black arrow, and numbered to coincide with the number on the post. W001 – W005. They are not all written on the map (only every 5 posts), but the arrows are there.
These distance posts are also visible on the ‘OpenStreetMap (OSM)’ background option for each route. They are indicated by a small ‘i’. An example below
There are also sometimes small hiker plaques as shown here:
These can also help you know that you are on the right path. If you have a topographic map you can see some trails are marked with this hiking picture that coincide with the locations of the posts (as shown in the map below).
What to do before you go running
- Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you plan to be back.
- Stick to your plan.
- Take basic first aid kit with you (for blisters, sprains/strains, small cuts etc.).
- Make sure you have enough food and water with you and have money to buy some if you run out.
- Take appropriate clothing/ gear with you depending on conditions.
- Make sure you have a map, or GPS with map available to you. Or are familiar with the exact route you need to take.
- Charge your phone and take it with you.
If in a group:
- Make sure there is at least one working phone with batteries charged.
- Bring a basic first aid kit (for blisters, sprains/strains, small cuts etc.).
- Make sure you have a group running plan (sticking together, what to do if the group splits up) – make sure that everyone knows the route well and what to do if they get lost. Plan whether you will stop to meet at turning points, junctions etc.
Losing Your Way
It may happen (as it has to many, including us) that at one point in time, you become ‘geographically embarrassed’. There are some key points to follow if this happens.
- Stop. Take a small break, catch your breath, and look at your surroundings. No need to panic.
- Look at the map you have with you, and try and figure out where you are (or think you are). Does it match up with what’s around you? Look for signs, distance posts, hills nearby, trail junctions, views, etc.
- If someone else is there, ask them if they know where you are, and if not, figure it out together.
- Use your map (you can use the background map option – ‘World Topo (ESRI)’ – and orientate it to match the features that you see around you. (If the beach is on your left, turn it to match that view). Or use landmarks to orientate it to match North, South, East, West. By looking at the features around you and comparing them to the map features, you should be able to roughly figure out where you are. (Being in an elevated area, if possible, helps). On the maps on our website – North is always at the top.
- If you are still unsure, make your way back to the last point where you definitely know where you were and re-orientate yourself. It may be a inconvenience or a long way back, but that’s better than continuing and getting even MORE lost.
In Hong Kong we get a huge range of different weather. Knowing about it and being able to make safe judgements on what you should do when you are outdoors in it can potentially save your life.
There are three levels of warning in Hong Kong: AMBER, RED and BLACK.
Guide to the Rainstorm Signals
AMBER RAINSTORM SIGNAL
Heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 30 millimetres in an hour, and is likely to continue.
- Members of the public should take necessary precautions to reduce their exposure to risk posed by heavy rain, such as flooding. Going near easily flooded watercourses should also be avoided.
- Parents, students, school authorities and school-bus drivers should listen to radio or television announcements on the weather, road and traffic conditions.
- Candidates for public examinations should attend the examination as normal, but should listen to radio or watch television in case the weather deteriorates suddenly.
- Farmers and fish pond owners, particularly those in low lying or flood frequented areas, should take the necessary precautions to minimise losses, which include checking and clearing the drainage system within and around the farm/fish ponds to ensure that all the drains are not blocked. Where possible, fish pond operators should reduce the water level of ponds which are likely to be flooded.
RED RAINSTORM SIGNAL
Heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 50 millimetres in an hour, and is likely to continue.
- Employees working outdoors in areas exposed to rain should suspend outdoor duties if weather conditions in those areas so warrant.
- People who have to travel should carefully consider weather and road conditions.
- If the RED signal is issued before working hours, employees should report for duty as usual, provided that transport services are available. Supervisors are encouraged to adopt a flexible attitude in case their staff have genuine difficulties in arriving at work on time.
- If the RED signal is issued during office hours, employees working indoors should remain on duty as usual unless it is dangerous to do so. Employees in areas where transport services are about to be suspended can be exceptionally released at the discretion of the supervisor. In exercising their discretion, supervisors should take into account the weather and road conditions.
BLACK RAINSTORM SIGNAL
Very heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 70 millimetres in an hour, and is likely to continue.
- Stay indoors or take shelter in a safe place until the heavy rain has passed.
- Employees working outdoors in exposed areas should stop work and take shelter.
- People having no safe place to go may take temporary refuge in any of the special temporary shelters opened by the Home Affairs Department.
- Employers are advised not to require their employees to go to work unless prior agreement on work arrangements during rainstorms has been made.
- People who are already at work should stay where they are unless it is dangerous to do so.
For more information/ References:
On average, thunderstorms are reported at the Hong Kong Observatory in the months during April to September.
As a rule of thumb, if the sound of thunder reaches an observer three seconds after a lightning flash, the thunderstorm is about one kilometre away from the observer. The distance of thunderstorms for different time delay of the thunder sound can be estimated similarly.
Thunderstorms bring about abrupt increases in wind speed and drastic changes in wind direction.
If you happen to be out in a lightning or thunderstorm, be aware of the below information
- Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
- If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members.
- If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
- Stay away from water, wet items, such as ropes, and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal do not attract lightning but they are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
Of course the simplest way to stay safe is not to go out running when there is a thunderstorm.
More information/ References:
There are five different classifications that represent different strengths of typhoon that Hong Kong may get. 1, 3, 8, 9 and 10. We will not be adding any extra information here. If there is a typhoon signal up, do not go running.
You can find more information about typhoon signals and what they mean here:
Fire Danger Warning
On average, over ten thousand fire incidents occur in Hong Kong every year, killing or injuring more than 600 people. Most of the fires are caused by carelessness or negligence. For example, the number of hill fires increases by 50% on weekends and public holidays, as more people visit the rural areas and the countryside.
Fire precautions should be taken all year round, but the fire risk is particularly high in the dry conditions of autumn and winter.
There are 2 levels of fire warning in HK.
The Yellow Fire Danger Warning will be issued when the fire risk is high.
The Red Fire Danger Warning will be issued when the fire risk is extreme.
When the Fire Danger Warnings are issued, warning messages are broadcast on radio, television and Internet to remind the public to take necessary fire precautions. Warning icons designed by the Observatory will be displayed on the TV screen.
If you see a forest fire call 999.
Forest fires tend to move up hills and down wind. If you are close to a fire move to the side of it and try to get out of its way.
Look for a body of water such as a pond or river or reservoir to crouch in.
- If there is no water nearby, find a depressed, cleared area with little vegetation, lie low to the ground, and cover your body with wet clothing, a blanket, or soil. Stay low and covered until the fire passes.
- Protect your lungs by breathing air closest to the ground, through a moist cloth, if possible, to avoid inhaling smoke.
More information/ reference:
Hot and Cold Weather
Hong Kong experiences both hot and cold seasons. The Hong Kong Observatory maintains a close watch on the local temperature changes. It issues warnings whenever Hong Kong is threatened by cold or very hot weather, to alert members of the public to the danger of low body temperature in cold weather or the risk of heat stroke and sunburn in very hot weather.
Hong Kong summers can be very hot indeed. With temperatures in the mid 30’s and humidity in the 90% range, exercise outside is nothing to take lightly.
The best times to run would be in the early morning or evening when it’s a little cooler. If you are out during the day make sure you take plenty of water with you and also some electrolyte tablets you can dissolve in a water bottle. These will keep the mineral content in your body balanced, which is important if sweating a lot.
For more information/resources on all of Hong Kong’s weather warnings please go here:
The humidity in Hong Kong is also one point of danger if outdoors. In summer it can be in the 90% range, which means the air is saturated with water vapour.
Your body cools itself down by sweating and having that sweat evaporate off your skin. However, if there is very high humidity then the sweat can’t evaporate as effectively, this means you may not cool down at the rate you need; and you might keep getting hotter which could lead to Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke if not managed properly.
So, being aware of the heat and humidity levels, the level of exercise you’re doing, the amount your sweating is something you must do or learn to be aware of in the summer. Learn to ‘listen’ to your body.
Heat Exhaustion vs Heatstroke
People throw around the word ‘Heat Stroke’ a lot, and it is misused sometimes. For general reference, we wanted to explain the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Recognising these and managing them are important.
Heat Exhaustion: Weakness produced by fluid loss from excessive sweating in a hot environment.
Signs and symptoms of Heat Exhaustion are
- Cool Clammy Skin
Treatment of Heat Exhaustion is
- Change the environment from hot to cool – moving them into the shade. Pouring water onto his or her head
- Oral rehydration with electrolytes
Heat Stroke: A life threatening condition produced by over exposure to hot environments and/or excessive heat production chacterized by an elevated core temperature.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke are:
- Disorientated, Irritable, Confusion
- Loss of coordination
- Increased Heart rate and breathing rate.
- Hot, Red, Dry or Moist Skin.
Treatment of Heat Stroke is:
Rapid cooling is required to save the persons life. Call 999.
- Move the person into the shade
- Remove any clothing that retains a lot of heat
- Keep the person wet while you vigorously fan their body – this maximizes heat loss by evaporation.
- Wait for help to arrive.
More info/ Reference: Book – Wilderness First Responder, Buck Tilton
What is Hyponatremia?
When someone drinks more than enough water and fails to take in adequate salt, (sodium – the salt lost when you sweat) and the sodium level drops. When blood sodium gets too low you can develop Hyponatremia. If you are exercising for a very long time and sweating a lot and don’t have a normal blood sodium level you can end up in serious trouble.
Many people think that if they just keep drinking water they will be ok, but without sodium or other minerals you could make the matter worse. So if you are sweating a lot or out for a long time in hot weather make sure you take some electrolytes with you. These not only have sodium in them but other essential minerals to keep your body working well.
You can usually buy electrolyte tablets that are dissolvable in water in most sports stores.
More info/ reference:
Book: Wilderness First Responder, Buck Tilton.
Winters in Hong Kong can get down to around 0 degrees Celsius in some cases. While the cooler weather is nicer to run in, you also have to be prepared. Getting stuck out in the cold without adequate gear or equipment could leave you in a difficult situation.
The four ways you loose heat are:
- Conduction: Occurs when heat is lost from a warmer object when it comes in contact with a colder one.
- Convection: Occurs when heat is lost directly into air or water by movement of the air or water. Wind-chill factor means the faster the wind blows the faster the human body loses heat into the air.
- Radiation: Is defined as heat constantly given off as electromagnetic radiation by a warm object, such as the human body radiating heat into the environment.
- Evaporation: Is the body’s most important cooling mechanism and it takes place on the skin as liquid changes into vapor.
Prevention—How to stay warm:
- You need fuel to burn. Eat before you go out, stay hydrated, and take extra food and water. That’s your internal furnace.
- Dress in layers. Start with quick dry clothing, no cotton (cotton clothing gets wet and stays wet; it is dangerous in the cold). Intermediate layers should be polar fleece or jacket, When you’re working up a sweat, take layers off. When you stop, put the layers back on, and trap all that heat you’ve generated. As you’ve most likely heard, you can lose a great amount of your body-core heat through your head and neck. Warm hats, make a tremendous difference in staying warm on your run.
- C) Exercise is heat. The quickest way a person can warm up is by exercise. If you’re cold, get moving, or get to a shelter out of the elements.
Some recommendations are below.
- Always remember to check the weather forecast.
- A wind proof jacket is usually good for those cold mornings. They also pack down pretty small and don’t take up space.
- A “buff” head scarf or small beanie is usually a great item to carry to keep your neck or head warm.
- Remember the layers – Base layer, long sleeve and jacket.
- Thin gloves are also great for the fingers if you are out for a long time in exposed areas.
The stronger the wind, the colder you will be. If you are in an exposed area (no shelter and exposed to wind rain, etc) it can make your situation worse. Have a look at this chart for reference.
More info/ References:
Book: Wilderness first responder, Buck Tilton
Almost anyone who is a runner in Hong Kong would have seen or come across some local animals when outdoors. There are 2 main ones we will cover here Snakes and Wild Dogs.
During the hotter months Snakes will be out and about. Seeing one is fairly uncommon as they usually hear you and slither away. If you are lucky you will see one. Usually they are basking on rocks or on paths where the sun is shining.
What to do
-If you see a snake – Don’t panic. Even if you have encountered a venomous snake, the snake is unlikely to attack or bite unless provoked or attacked by you. Give it some space is the best thing to do. It’ll likely try to get away from you as quickly as possible, Let it slither away. Don’t provoke, touch or attack it.
-Learn about the different snakes in Hong Kong. Try to remember what they look like and which ones are poisonous or non-poisonous.
There have been some incidents in Hong Kong with runners encountering wild dogs. Some dogs you may encounter are fine, others may be aggressive.
What to do
If you come across aggressive dogs: If it’s possible to go around them or avoid them then do so. If they run at you in an aggressive manner, make yourself bigger and make some noise. Try not to turn your back on them as they will keep coming toward you, walk away backwards keeping your eyes on them.