A few years ago, I was with my family at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park located just north of Arizona. For those of you who are not familiar, the dunes are a place where sand junkies go to satisfy their throttle needs. We’ve been vacationing at the dunes for as long as I can remember and have always invited my aunt to go with us. Like most thrill seeking families, we’ve had our few share of accidents, but this one was the best because it required search and rescue.

Of course, the crash had to happened the furthest place away from help. There was just six of us out on a little excursion when my aunt and her passenger made their way up a dune. Suddenly, the rear tires got stuck and the front end flew up, falling backwards, throwing the passenger and taking my aunt with it tumbling down the dune. My aunt was severely injured and was in no state to get back to camp.

We needed help quickly so two people stayed behind, with my aunt and her passenger, while my mother and I raced back to camp. After 30 minutes we finally made it to the ranger’s station. I jumped in the medical jeep with the park ranger and we made that long journey back to the scene. Once there we were able to get her on the stretcher, into the jeep and met up with the ambulance on one of the side roads.

I tell this story because of the importance of search and rescue and how it literally saved a loved one’s life. Part of Scouting is being prepared and that includes having the knowledge base of wilderness survival, first aid, and emergency preparation which extends into Search and Rescue, (SAR).

What is Search and Rescue?

Search and rescue (SAR) is the search for by the use of aircraft, surface craft, submarines, specialized rescue teams and equipment and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger on land or at sea. The common field of SAR includes many specialty sub-fields founded upon terrain considerations. SAR includes mountain rescue, ground rescue including the use of search and rescue dogs, urban SAR in cities; combat SAR on the battle field and air-sea rescue over water.

SAR is usually organized under the Sheriff’s Department. So, each SAR team is made up of local volunteers and serve a specific area. When an incident happens, there is a chain of events that happen before the SAR team is contacted. First, is the initial 911 call. Then dispatch contacts the SAR deputies who will determine if the situation needs SAR.

The Search and Rescue team is actually made of up three parts or teams. Team one’s purpose is to get to the person(s) immediately taking only essentials. Team two makes their way with the stretcher. Finally, team three will bring additional supplies that team one and team two have radio’d back saying they need.

Prevention

While hearing about amazing rescue stories could be inspiring, it’s better to avoid the need for Search and Rescue, (trust me). How can one avert the use of Search and Rescue? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Check the weather before heading out
  • Read avalanche reports
  • Bring proper supplies such as water, food, equipment, etc.
  • Wear appropriate clothing!
  • Communicate – let people know when and where you are going and when you plan on being back
  • BE PREPARED – Anything could happen. Plan for it.

Experience is what you get if you don’t have experience.

When to Call

When should you call for help? First, if the matter is urgent and someone’s life is in danger, call as soon as possible. (The sooner the better!) But, what about those times that aren’t as urgent and you’re just not sure? Should you still call? Yes! Call for help. It is better to be safe than sorry. Even something that is minor could potentially be life threatening.

Seeking medical attention can sometimes be costly and there are times when people don’t even call because they are afraid of the giant bill they’ll receive afterwards. Great news! Search and Rescue does NOT charge people because of this exact reason. That means that the time, equipment, crew, and supplies are all volunteered or donated. They are there to help you!

Tips

In Scouting, you’re spending 99.99% of your time outdoors. Which means there is a higher chance of unfortunate events that could possibly happen. A very common example is getting lost. Here are a few things that you should keep in mind before heading into the great outdoors:

1) Prevention – Teach your Scouts how not to get lost in the first place.
2) Stay in place – If they do get lost, have them stay in place and shout.
3) Before your trip – Before each hike or outing, either take a picture of the Scouts or take notes about them. That way Search and Rescue crews have an idea of what to look for.
4) Footsteps – First, do NOT step of their tracks. Second, take a pictures of their footprints.
5) Attraction – When lost, do anything you can to bring attention to yourself. For example, whistles, mirrors, laser pointers, even cell phones.
6) Clothing – Wear bright clothing such as neon green and orange.

Learn More

Back at the 2017 National Jamboree, Search and Rescue was one of the more popular attractions. Scouts couldn’t get enough of the demonstrations, classes, and volunteers. Members of the Coast Guard displayed equipment, such as boats, for Scouts and any visitors to observe and ask questions. Military personnel put on shows ranging from drill team performances to some kind of aerial demonstration. There was no doubt that all forms of Search and Rescue peaked the youth’s interest during Jamboree. 

Attending the Jamboree isn’t the only way you can get involved in SAR. Any Scout can earn the Search and Rescue Merit Badge. Scouts who enjoyed discovering about First Aid and Emergency Preparedness can branch out and continue their learning through this additional merit badge. Scouts who increase their survival skill set can positively effect not only their own lives but others as well.

Join

It’s not difficult to become a member of your local Search and Rescue team. You just need the basic skills such as first aid and outdoor skills, (all taught in Scouting). Also, you’ve got to be willing to donate your time and supplies like your own tools, gas, equipment, etc. Last, you need a great attitude; Search and Rescue can be a dangerous and serious matter. When someone needs the aid of SAR, you know that someone’s life is at stake. Having a great attitude will get you through those times when you just can’t save that person or when it seems impossible to get up that cliff to the fallen hiker. If you or your Scouts are genuinely drawn to helping those in need, contact your local Search and Rescue crew and get more information on how you can join or contact you city’s emergency services to get your Scout unit enrolled in a Teen CERT program.

In reality, those who participate in SAR sacrifice a lot. They are putting their own safety aside, and helping those who need it. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened if we couldn’t have gotten my aunt the help she needed. The quick action and preparedness of the SAR team saved her. I am thankful everyday that we have real life super heroes who walk our streets. 

It’s absolutely wonderful that the Scouting program teaches youth the basic first aid skills and then offers additional resources, if they choose, to further their education. Search and Rescue is a great way for Scouts to, not only explore the unique way of what it’s like to serve others, but a way to teach Scouts how to avoid dangerous situations. Being prepared with this knowledge can save the lives of many.

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