A family who was hiking together, trying to find a christmas tree, became lost and had to sleep out in a snowstorm. The article from SFGate coverd the story well.
The 4 family members, ages 38, 18, 15 and 12 were all doing well and only one was suffering from mild frostbite. Apparently, the family was found less than 2 miles from a road and signaled rescuers with an “SOS” made from branches.
http://www.torontohiking.com/Tutorials/lost/lost.html has a good page with some basics on what to do if lost in the forest. You also can learn a bit about survival in these scenarios over at: http://www.m4040.com/Survival/Survival.htm. Lessons learned from this should be the need to always be prepared for a night out. Even if you are just out for a few hours, you never know what you may run into.
A simple pack with a few key items can make the difference between a very uncomfortable and possibly life threatening ordeal and a little inconvenience.
Everyone I know carries a mobile phone, nowdays. It should be carried outdoors. A spare hat and gloves, in the winter is also wise. A method to start a fire, such as matches, is a must for anybody walking off a paved road. A pocket knife is another item that is a “always carry”.
I am a big fan of “survival tins”. You can learn what goes into them and how to make your own at Survival.com’s page: http://www.survival.com/best.htm. Very small and easily portable, these kits can be slipped into a coat pocket or pack, just in case. Another good example can be found here at Brigade Quartermasters.
Lastly, I think one book that should be read by everybody is the SAS Survival Manual By John “Lofty” Wiseman. This book is not only very interesting, but helpful.
The most important thing is to be prepared and have at least thought about the possibility that you may have to spend a night outside. Telling somebody you trust, your route, when you are starting and when you are expected home is vital.