Lost and Found in New Mexico

Sunday, June 26, 2005

So what is Search and Rescue?

Search and Rescue groups exists all over the world. Each group is unique in the skills and capabilites they have to look for and rescue lost or hurt people. There are Urban SAR groups who train, many with dogs and high tech electronic equipment, to go into collapsed buildings after natural disasters and more recently terrorist attacks. Wilderness SAR groups are trained to do a variety of jobs and different types of teams are called dependent on the circumstances. Each state in the US has a different way Search and Rescue missions are handled. Most states still use the County Sheriff's departments to draw the boundry lines over who will handle the initial investigation and then the search. This is a good system but occasionally causes territorial issues when the search extends over several counties or teams from different counties need to be called out.
In New Mexico we use the ICS system under the NM State Police. When a person is reported missing to the SP, a SP mission initiator interviews the reporting party and decides if it is a legitimate search. There are districts established around NM with an Incident Commander (also called Field Coordinator)in each district taking call for a week, 24/7 (usually there are several IC's in each district) and that person is called by the SP. There is also an Area Commander who takes call for a week for the entire state, keeping track of ongoing missions and teams being used. Being under the State Police eliminates the territorial issues and allows us more freedom to call out the kinds of teams we need. With everyone trained in the Incident Command System it allows for quicker response and provides many well trained people for a mission.
Many people wonder if you have to be strong, able to hike long distances or know how to rappel etc. to be able to join a SAR team. The answer is NO! Teams are formed with the intention of doing special skills. There are Mountain Rescue teams, Dog teams, Horse teams, Groundpounders, All Terrain Vehicle teams, Communications-this is a biggie and many other types! We frequently use Amateur Radio Operators to provide communications in areas where cell phones and even police radios don't work. Amateur Radio Relay Leagues and Amateur Radio Emergency Service teams provide valuble assistance, some come out to the actual search site with elaborate Communication trailers while others sit in their homes hundreds of miles away relaying messages and helping to locate addtional resources. Because of the vast, sometimes inaccessable terrain we frequently use aircraft. The Civil Air Patrol can provide communication links as well as using spotters to look for lost subjects. The State Police and the National Guard both have helicopters that can be used to look for subjects, land and pick them up if found or if necessary hoist a missing person out of a remote area. So anyone who is willing to volunteer their time can help in some way. Oh, did I forget the volunteer part. Yes, SAR is a volunteer, nonprofit organization. You can get reimbursed for gas for your vehicle and sometimes the American Red Cross or other volunteers will come out and feed us, but everyone who belongs to a SAR team wants to help people and they aren't expecting to get paid for it. If you are interested in joining a SAR team, check with your Sheriff's Dept., State Police or look on the internet. Many teams now have websites. We'd love to have your help!!!


Post a Comment

<< Home