|National Search and Rescue Week|
by Stormy on May 15, 2010
Are you lost, hurt, in need of help? Do you know who the heroes that stand ready to keep you safe are?
There don't appear to be any hard and fast statistics about Search and Rescue in the United States, but it's easy to guess that the numbers are relatively high. The National Parks Service reports an average of 4,000 rescues per year. The United States Coast Guard averages 30,000 annual calls. There are also rescues handled by sheriff offices, fire departments, civil air patrol, wilderness SAR teams, alpine SAR teams, urban SAR teams, cave rescue teams and a wildly on-going list, all dispatched by concerned friends and families, 911 systems, OnStar, SPOT/Globalstar, DASS (Distress Alerting Satellite System) and countless other methods. Most Search and Rescue services in the United States are offered free of charge, not counting medical treatment or legal penalties for getting into trouble while doing something that should not have been done. Search and Rescue has been glamorized in numerous movies and television shows, ranging from the melodramatic (“Search and Rescue”, “River of Rage”, “High Sierra”) to the gritty (“The Guardian”, “The Guard”, “Trauma”) to cheesy (“Baywatch”) to child oriented educational programs (“Flight Squad”, “Rescue Heroes”). Getting lost, injured and needing to be rescued has become a large part of our adventure driven culture. On May 14, 2010 Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State introduced a resolution to make the week of May 16 through May 22, 2010 National Search and Rescue Week. This is an important recognition of the people who volunteer their time to keep their communities safe. The resolution was co-sponsored by Senators Patty Murray, Mike Crapo, Jeff Bingaman, Barbara Boxer, Mike Enzi, Lisa Murkowski and Ron Wyden and passed unanimously on first reading. Reflecting on the resolution, Senator Cantwell noted, “As an avid hiker and mountaineer, I take steps to prepare myself and minimize my risk whenever I pack for a trip, but I understand that no amount of preparation can protect you from an accidental misstep or an unforeseen circumstance, and it is often the swift response of trained search and rescue personnel that makes the difference between tragedy and survival. Every day in Washington State and across our nation, these brave volunteers exemplify courage, commitment and compassion in performing their duties. Today, we have passed a small act of recognition for their heroic efforts.” On July 27 and 28, 2009 two dozen members of the Alpine Rescue Team, the Custer County Search and Rescue Team, the Douglas County Search and Rescue Team, the El Paso County Search and Rescue Team and the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, all based in Colorado, conducted a high‐altitude rescue of a climber who fell and fractured his leg. The climber was stuck at about 14,000 feet above sea level along the famed Crestone Traverse, considered a Class 4 climb. To make the situation worse, the rescue took place entirely at night between two of Colorado's most dangerous Fourteeners, Crestone Peak (14,298 feet elevation) and Crestone Needle (14,201 feet elevation), in a gully notorious for rock fall and surrounded by 70º rock faces of 1,500 feet. Rescuers had to climb nearly 4,500 vertical feet, ascending more than 3,000 vertical feet to the summit, then perform a technical lowering for 1,700 vertical feet to a helicopter at 12,300 feet and then climb back up 1,500 vertical feet to a pass before descending another 1,500 feet, all before severe summer thunderstorms developed over the peaks. On May 13 the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) Valor Award was presented to the five search and rescue teams at the association's national conference in Tunica, Mississippi. The Valor Award has only been given twice in the organization's history. Presenting the National Search and Rescue Week resolution to Congress, on May 14 Senator Cantwell said, “Whether it is an accident in the wilderness or a natural disaster in a major city, search and rescue personnel are always ready to respond. All across our country, when people find themselves in danger, they can be thankful for the bravery and willingness to serve exhibited by these dedicated individuals. Every day men, women, pack animals and search dogs put themselves in harm's way to ensure the safety and security of citizens in need. Their territory knows no bounds; wherever the mission is, they go, sometimes for weeks at a time. Search and rescue teams are relentless in their training. They go to great lengths to ensure they are physically and mentally fit and well-versed in the newest search and rescue techniques. This preparation enables them to approach complex search and rescue situations with confidence and skill.” I am happy to say that in my many travels I have come across many Search and Rescue personnel in both social and work environments and I am very proud to say that these are the real heroes of our communities. The work that they do is hard and it is not cut out for everyone. Working to save lives under dangerous conditions is something these people volunteer to do. Please take the time in this coming week to thank the emergency responders and search and rescue personnel in your community.
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