Orienteering Safety and Ethics

Any activity in the out of doors has inherent dangers. However, with a degree of caution and some knowledge of the dangers, orienteering is basically a very safe sport.

To help you be prepared here are some guidelines.

Time Limit

Each event has a given time limit - 2pm for Sunday meets, a given time frame (# of hours/minutes) for others. Organizers will remain on site until everyone has returned. It is a courtesy to them to arrive back on time so they can start collecting flags. If everyone has not reported in search procedures will begin.  For this reason you must mark your car license and telephone number on your registration form so we can determine if you are still in the woods or have gone home forgetting to report in. All participants are required to carry a whistle.

Potential dangers


Some plants can be very dangerous to some people. We don't suggest you should stay indoors but we do recommend full leg covering for all wooded areas and open fields due to:

poison ivy Poison Ivy: Some of our maps have an abundance of poison ivy and we try to mention this when events are held on those maps. It is quite likely that all maps with wooded areas have some amount of poison ivy or other plant that may cause someone irritation. If there is any possibility you have come in contact with poison ivy or other irritant, you should handle the clothing as carefully as possible and wash down with soap and water. More detail can be found at this Health Canada site


Wild Parsnip Wild Parsnip: This invasive plant is becoming more and more prevalent in the Ottawa area and can be very harmful. The sap can cause extreme sensitivity to sunlight, which can result in severe burns, and even blindness if you get sap in your eyes.  The plant can be found in ditches and other unmaintained areas.  While it may be very severe for some we only mention it as a caution for others. 


giant-hogweed Giant Hogweed : a recent invader of the same family as the Wild Parsnip and more dangerous. It hasn't been identified in any of our current maps but it does seem to be moving closer to the Ottawa region. More detail can be found at this Ontario government site


Sharp ended broken twigs, jagged rocks, beaver chopped stumps: for these you may want to add extra shin protection.

While our meet directors do their best to keep you away from these dangers they do not fully control where you travel. If you do encounter any of the sap dangerous plants you should take care to wash thoroughly with soap and lots of water following the meet and handle your clothing carefully.

Wildlife :

Large animals Black bears, coyotes, porcupines, moose and deer can be seen in our woods. They don't want to encounter you any more than you want to encounter them. Give them space. Back away, slowly. Pick up small children. Report the sighting to meet officials when you return.

ticks Ticks : With the warming climate, ticks are now well into our area. Again we recommend full leg covering with pants tucked into your socks to prevent ticks climbing up the leg. The blacklegged ticks which are found most often in long grasses may carry Lyme Disease. Please see Health Canada's site to understand how to protect yourself from these, how to remove a tick and how to recognize any symptoms. Please always do a complete and through tick check after every event.  There is more information available on this with the links here and the article linked on the right.

For more information, Ottawa Public Health have an in depth paper on ticks and Lyme disease.


Injuries :

As you run, be aware of your surroundings, where you are stepping, and what is coming next. Uncrossable water, fences and cliffs are marked as such often for safety reasons. See our maps page for a legend showing the map indication of each of these and indications of where it is safe to cross. If you are injured to the point of not being able to continue, blow 3 short blasts on your whistle, stay in one place, listen for a response. Continue with 3 short blasts frequently until help arrives. If you are injured such that you can continue but with severe limitations, find the shortest, easiest route back to the finish or using the safety bearing to a road where help can be found.

Lost :

If you are lost, first try to relocate. If that does not work, check your map for a safety bearing and work your way toward it. If all else fails and you are beyond the time limit set for the course, stay in one place and use your whistle as above.

Code of Conduct and Ethics

1.  Orienteering Ottawa follows the "Code of Conduct and Ethics" of Orienteering Canada. 

2. We appreciate the cooperation of landowners whether they be private, corporate or government. Please help us by respecting their land:

  • stay out of private property (marked in olive green on your map) and out of bounds areas (marked with magenta stripes)
  • leave no garbage about
  • stay out of gardens, newly planted fields or fields with growing crops
  • do no damage to fences or other equipment or property

3.  Orienteering , being an event in the woods, out of the crowd and camera view, relies on sportsmanlike behaviour. A good sport would:

  • not follow others.  
  • not distract others. Please be respectful of competitors who want to focus while racing.

4. Run your own race and let others do so as well:

  • Do not ask others for help unless you are truly lost and have made every effort to relocate.
  • Do not tell others where a control is unless they explicitly ask you for help.
  • Do not call out giving others unwanted help in finding a  control.  If you are part of a team, work quietly together
  • Once finding a control, punch and move on. Don't hang around.

5. Help any injured orienteer you may encounter.

6. Do not bring your dog to the event. Dogs are not permitted even on leash at many locations and they are disturbing and/or distracting to some participants.

7. Always keep in mind, wherever you are running, that you are sharing the trail, the road, the woods with others.  Be courteous, polite, and slow down in confined spaces to pass others safely without alarming them.  Keep in mind that possession of an orienteering map does not give us any special permissions. Slowing  down is not just a question of common courtesy to others who are out enjoying nature - which is reason enough to slow down - but also a question of safety.