Here are a few more pictures of last weekends snow training. Saturday was sunny and warm, but Sunday was snowy with sleet, cold and fog. Everyone got opportunities to drive in the snow—invaluable practical experience for all. Kids whose snowmobile needed a tow got a ride in the snowcat; good times!
Josephine County' Sheriff's Search & Rescue recently hosted the third annual Summer Exercise for the eight counties that provide mutual aid (Siskiyou, Del Norte, Klamath, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson and Josephine County). The event was designed to improve intra-county coordination during longer or larger search or emergency situations.
We are a volunteer organization receiving no general tax funds. Hosting 300 hundred people for four days at Sam Brown Campground without potable water, electricity, or RV hook-ups was a significant undertaking requiring outside financial support.
The local community graciously stepped up to enable this important event to take place. It was the biggest, longest, and, we think, the best annual exercise of recent years.
We introduced ten new classroom training modules, held the first ever night search, and conducted a daytime mock search in pouring rain. Realistic search exercises like these help county search & rescue units learn to work as one coordinated unit.
The local businesses that assisted us include: US Cellular, Dutch Bros., Ray’s Food Place, Riverbanks Market, Wilderville Store, Pepsi Cola (Klamath), WalMart, Fred Meyer, Coca Cola, (Medford), Cash and Carry (Medford), Shari's Restaurant, Applebee’s, the Sub Shop, the Powderhorn Cafe, and Subway Sandwiches. Individual contributions and County resources also made a huge difference.
Thank you all so much. Josephine County's unit has benefited enormously from this training, and our ability to coordinate with neighboring counties is tremendously enhanced.
Thanks to the Daily Courier, too, for its coverage, and to the County Commissioners for their invaluable support.
Additional information and photos of our event, and unit in general, can be found at http://jocosarblog.typepad.com/jocosarblog/
Sara Rubrect, Emergency Manager, Search and Rescue Coordinator
The event was an unqualified success, but for the home team it wasn't over until we had disassembled the tents, transported all the gear back to SAR house and returned the park to its pristine state- actually, maybe even better. The self-appointed demobilization team was small, but they worked efficiently and hard getting everything out of the park by sundown on Monday (the event concluded at noon on Sunday). The 5 modular tents needed to be deconstructed and carefully folded to their original package shape to fit in their protective coverings. Keri Wu was a handy "rolling pin" to remove extra air from the rolled tent segments. And then there was Tuesday. All the stuff hauled out of the campground and into SAR house had to be sorted and put away. Tons of stuff, literally, with much time carrying loads on stairs... this part— not so fun. Thank you Tuesday saints for putting us back together!
The ATV teams were genuine utility players in this year's Summer Exercise. The team cleared trails for vehicles and horses prior to the event, transported materials and people all over the camp before during and after the event, got people and materiel into the search areas, searched their assigned segments during the mock search for the two "missing" hikers. The powerful, compact machines can get to places people, dogs and horses may not be able to reach and they do it faster and with the potential to get medical personnel to an injured subject as well as evacuating a disabled subject. Our team requires rider certification and regular training in safety and search tactics and riders must provide their own protective gear.
Tow-N-G0 quad trailers, one of our event vendors, displayed a state-of-the-art quad rigged with a litter for evacuation of a supine subject and a seat for an attendant positioned to be able to attend to the subject during transport. This device can be adapted for use on snow as well as off-road surfaces.
The critical link between the searchers in the field and incident command, where the search strategists are located, is the communications team. During Sumer Ex we used the state SAR radio frequency for ICP communications with the field and FRS radios for communication among team members. Having approximately 17 teams in the field (and the transporters that got them there) all using the same radio frequency kept the base communication team very busy (they also transcribe all messages received). About 6 or 7 searchers were rigged with APRS (automatic position reporting system) vests that automatically send the GPS location of the person to command at the time interval set by command (shorter time when vehicles are used, longer for walkers, etc.). The GPS location appears on the computer displaying a topo map of the area allowing coms to track the trackers without voice communication while obtaining a permanent record of their position at 3 minute intervals. Pretty neat!
These big exercises do expose communication problems that we can't recognize when we draw the plan up on paper. Solutions to these problems come from working the system in a realistic setting and then finding the weak points in the plan. We found several ways to improve our system validating the necessity of testing a system under rigorous field conditions- which we certainly did.
Some of the K-9 teams have APRS devices on their dogs that track the position of the dog and record it on a handheld unit the handler carries. This allows for detailed analysis to the areas covered by the dog team that helps search planners know what areas have been well covered and which not.
Another OSSA Trailing Dog for JoCo! By Ann McGloon
Josephine County can add another OSSA certified trailing dog to it's roster. K9 Connie (a Sussex Spaniel) successfully passed her evaluation on June 20th, 2009. She was tested to OSSA standards by OPCA Master Trainer Mack Reid. The test was conducted outside of Sisters, OR in the Deschutes National Forest. The 1.7 mile long trail was laid in the early evening just as a storm front raced through the area adding a touch of real-world weather to the evaluation. The following morning, the handler was briefed on the scenario: the subject had exited a vehicle to photograph some deer in the woods and when the subject ventured further into the woods for a better shot, she went missing. A scent article was collected and the handler started her dog at the PLS (point-last-seen). The team traveled 3 miles uphill negotiating the terrain and working the scent trail before finding the missing subject. Josephine County now has two OSSA certified trailing dogs and one OSSA certified air scent dog in the K9 Unit with other teams nearing certification.
On the last morning of Summer Ex, SAR games were held for SAR members and their spouses. Seven events were offered and it was possible to do all of them if one wished. Each event was a competition with prizes offered to the top three finishers. There was a Pace Accuracy event (walk off a prescribed distance and from your known stride length calculate the distance in feet), Novice Geocache, Expert Geocache, Clue Scene with 10 possible clues to be found within a time limit), Track Comparison (match as fast as you can sole imprints with the shoes/boots that made them), Bearing Shoot (accuracy over distance) and a half mile run (times compared). All events were SAR-relevant and fun. Here are some of the competitors in action:
The winner of the half-mile run is the runner without his face showing. Can you tell who it is?
We had many generous and excellent sponsors for our Summer Exercise, but one of the more visible, stimulating, and tasty has to have been the donation by Dutch Bros. of a fully equipped coffee stand manned by a pair of fabulous baristas who generously plied us with our favorite coffee/espresso drink whenever we needed one. I don't think any coffee lover will ever forget this chance to start and then wind-down a search event in the rain with their fresh, hot brew of choice. What a great way to keep morale high.
Approximately a dozen horses and riders participated in the big mock search held on Saturday. Some teams were in the field searching and some carried lunch and water out to the searchers who were in the remote field. Unfortunately, I did not photograph most of the horse and rider teams, but I took the shots I could and isn't getting to see some horses infinitely better than seeing none? So, apologies to those who worked hard, but aren't getting any screen time here. Send me your pictures and I'll post what I can. Horses are highly sentient and insightful searchers are using cues from their horses to extend their human search capabilities. For more about the use of horses in search and rescue go here and here,
Hiker Hell "This blog is about learning from other people's mistakes, so you don't make the same ones."
Many stories of how people on hikes got into trouble- the kind of trouble that leads to searches or recoveries.