Instructive and entertaining!
By Monica McFadden
“This is Klamath Dispatch. A Piper Cub pilot flying along Keno Access Road from Ashland to Klamath Falls reported she saw a mirror flash about a half a mile south of Keno Access at Nameless Springs Road. She heard the news story last night about the hiker missing in that area, and thought it might be a signal mirror. No additional information is available. She was flying on to Idaho this afternoon.”
With this additional clue called in through the Comms Officer, the Incident Command team working one of the three mock search scenarios at CORSAR Summer Ex moved a team of four mounted resources to the north in their search area and soon found “Wayne Crewson,” a fictional Berkley professor who had gone out to “adopt” a wilderness area near Johnson Prairie and had been out for 2 nights due to a seriously injured ankle which prevented him from moving.
The Crewson scenario was one of three mock searches all operating simultaneously on Saturday of CORSAR Summer Ex (June 23). The primary goal of the mock search exercise was to give overhead personnel from the 9 CORSAR counties (Coos, Curry, Del Norte, Douglas, Klamath, Jackson, Josephine, Lake, and Siskiyou) a chance to practice incident command skills while networking and getting to know each other as searchers from the 9 counties have done in previous Summer Ex. Searchers got to practice their skills, work under different IC teams, and continue working together.
The three mock searches, which I was asked to design, used large portions of the land around Sheriff Winter’s property, which was Base for all of Summer Ex. They were:
Jaines: Max Jaines, a retired BLM ranger, took his wife, Genevieve (63) fly fishing along Sheepy Creek (to the southeast of the Sheriff’s property) on Friday. Genevieve has what Max describes as “mild Alzheimers”. At noon he went back to the car to get lunch, telling Gen to stay where she was. When he returned she was gone. A call to the Klamath County Sheriff followed soon after.
Crewson: Wayne Crewson, a 45 YO music professor at Berkley and an avid environmentalist, heard about a program sponsored by KS Wild asking people to “adopt” wilderness areas to monitor and document flora and fauna. Without telling the program people about his interest, Crewson picked out a full Section NW of the Sheriff’s property. He drove up on Wednesday, camped overnight about a mile from “his” section. His girlfriend called the Jackson County Sheriff on Friday to report him missing when he did not return to teach his classes.
McPherson/O’Rourke: Two local firefighters, 26 and 25, had a bachelor party with 25 friends in an area just W of the Sheriff’s property. McPherson is getting married June 30. Much alcohol is consumed. They stay over one last night after the others depart on Thursday, saying they planned to finish the bottles from the party and have “one last ride as free men” on their side by side ATV in the hills to the west or south of the party area. The bride to be called Jackson County Sheriff on Friday to report them overdue.
Planning for the searches began on Friday afternoon after lunch. Each scenario was assigned an eight person IC team and an Incident Command post and a communications channel (State SAR, National SAR or Repeater 3). The Jackson, Klamath and Coos County ICP were parked at Base. IC teams were told they would rotate through all three scenarios (searchers were assigned to one scenario and did not rotate), to practice handing off command. Sara Rubrecht, Josephine County SAR Coordinator, served as the IC monitor (or “Queen Bee Logistics” as her sign facetiously read). IC teams were required to fill major IC positions: Incident Commander, Planning, Operations, Logistics, Safety, Documentation, Communication and Resources/Situation, produce an Incident Action Plan, maps, assignments, clue log, comms log, safety message, press release, and other key ICS documentation for each operational period and do written debriefs and track log downloading for all returning searchers. The “T-card” system of tracking resources was also to be implemented. Sara had prepared T-cards for all searchers and overhead as they checked into Summer Ex and we had divvied them up among the scenarios, trying to match resources to terrain and the type of search.
Friday, the IC teams operated without searchers present. After being given search resources on T-cards, the teams worked up all the forms and maps and written assignments for their assigned scenario in preparation for the field searches beginning on Saturday. To their frustration, all IC teams were told there were no air assets, no cell phones that could be pinged and the reporting parties and witnesses were unavailable for interviews or additional clues. Each team also had to learn what tools were (and weren’t) available in their ICP and how to operate all of the technology. Since each of these ICP is used at searches, the familiarity should be useful in the future.
Right before dinner the three teams switched scenarios and ICP, briefing the incoming IC team and being briefed for their new scenario by the outgoing IC. Thus each scenario had a new team that would be implementing someone else’s plan when the ground part of the searches began Saturday, a very realistic scenario.
The subjects, respectively played by Ronnie Rowland, wife of Jackson County Lt. Rowland, Bryan Hawkins of Josephine, and Dave Rubrecht and Ken Berg of Josephine were inserted into pre-planned positions on Saturday morning at 0630. A special “Lost” channel was set up by Josephine County Communications guru Brian Fritsen, allowing me to check in regularly on all the subjects without being heard by searchers or IC.
At 0800, searchers reported for duty and were called for their scenarios. Briefings began, searchers got boots, paws, tires or hooves on the ground and the mock searches were now operating in earnest. The McPherson scenario had primarily ATV and 4x4 resources, although some ground teams were assigned. The Crewson scenario had Mounted, K9 and several teams of ground searchers. The Jaines scenario had K9 and ground resources.
Throughout the morning, each IC worked with the searchers, who were calling in clues, positions and information, while also planning for later operations with new assignments and adjustments of search plans. As the scenario monitor, it was interesting to watch where teams sent their searchers, often different than I would have expected.
At noon, the IC teams changed scenarios and ICP for the last time, with each team having again to brief the incoming IC for their Saturday AM scenario and being briefed by the outgoing IC for their last scenario. Sara and I handled Comms so things would continue to flow for the searchers in the field.
At about 1300, each scenario IC was given an additional clue (like the one above) to help focus the scenarios. The Jaines IC got a call from Jackson dispatch that a flyfisher had called in on Saturday AM (before heading out for a day of flyfishing) saying he had seen a woman of the description given on the local news on Friday afternoon near Puckett Glade, an area to the E of where Mrs. Jaines was last seen. “Billy Bob” (played by Lt. John Ward of Curry County), showed up at the door of IC for the McPherson scenario telling them he had met 2 guys like they were looking for about 2 miles from Base and they had planned to go towards Howard Prairie Lake and ride along a canal. IC teams had to decide what, if any, changes to make to their scenarios based on the new information.
All the subjects were found between 1500 and 1600. Each subject had injuries that turned the find into a rescue operation. “Jaines” had lost a boot on her 2 mile meander to her location (never found by searchers), and had an foot and ankle injuries that required a litter carry out to a vehicle where she could then ride in the front seat. “Crewson” was hypothermic (played convincingly by Hawkins who had shed clothing about 2 hours earlier and put cold water bottles in his armpits) and his foot injury – another litter carry out. “McPherson” had rolled their ATV and had a broken wrist and a leg fracture, while “O’Rourke” was paralyzed from the waist down – another difficult extraction. IC teams had to direct the rescue and get trucks, litters and more personnel to the area. Searchers had the chance to practice first aid and litter skills.
An “all searcher” After Action was held immediately after the searches before dinner. Searchers reported they had noticed different voices on the radio, but overall were unaware IC had changed that many times. Excellent feedback was received, which will make any future exercises even better.
An “all IC” After Action was planned for Sunday morning, but torrential rain and exhaustion made postponing that a better option. The IC Debrief will be held sometime in the next 2 weeks. Again, lots of good information and learning should come from that.
My personal thanks to all of the subjects, who kept in character and did an excellent job of making the scenarios real, all of the searchers, Sara and all of the IC personnel. It was an incredible exercise!