Team Commendations, August

Joe Keyser seems to be everywhere these days, and among other things has been doing outstanding work with the Mountain Rescue Group (MRG). Joe is currently the lead instructor for the Wilderness First Responder medical class that started July 31st. He also recently led a group of Type I candidates on a wilderness trip to achieve their Advanced Back Packing Certification. The training included a high-altitude component. Overall, the MRG has greatly benefitted from Joe's management and leadership as the Training Corporal.




There is a trend here, with Tim Murphy and Steve Filippoff…




  ….selected again for recognition in August, even though they were each independently recognized earlier this year. Their continued hard work and dedication deserves additional praise. Together they organized the July full-team training to review swiftwater operations. In attendance were 105 team members and 12 proctors. The overwhelming feedback from participants indicated the training was well organized and did an effective job of teaching water safety and water rescue skills.


Searcher Spotlight: Eric Fok

Eric Fok simply didn’t have enough to do raising four small kids and two dogs and running his own interior design business, so he sought a way to volunteer. He looked at a number of organizations, but either they weren’t that interesting or challenging, he says, or they were too “watered down.” Then in January 2010, he found SAR and the fire was lit.

He is, after all, an avid outdoors person who likes to hit the trail on his mountain bike before dawn, and camps and backpacks when he can. The drive to be physical and take on challenges is in his DNA, Eric says. SAR was a good fit.

“This is what I was looking for. CoCo SAR has really delivered at a level that still amazes me in that everyone does this because we want to.”

Eric is a California guy. Born and raised in Santa Rosa, he attended college in Sacramento. He and his wife Ruth live with their kids in Walnut Creek. Eric works from home, and his business focuses on custom home design, architectural detailing, and specifying, with a specialty in wine cellars and home theaters. His wife, too, works from home, which gives them both the opportunity to be there for their family and pursue their volunteer efforts.

“I’ve learned a lot being self-employed,” Eric says. “Through hard work and discipline, being resourceful, thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to do it ‘my way,’ it has paid dividends in the last 15 years.”

He says it is a privilege and honor to be part of CoCo SAR, with its collective energy that goes toward making a difference. “The SAR mission aligns well with many of my core values: helping others in need, pushing and testing my limits, working to make myself a better person, and most of all, striving to always be learning,” he says. “For this, I expect a lifelong commitment and contribution to CoCo SAR.”

Searcher Spotlight: Sam Barley



Even the busiest SAR members enjoy some side interests and Sam Barley—when he’s not selling information technology services for Hewlett Packard—pursues his passions. Sam, like many SAR folk, is an outdoorsy guy who likes camping and backpacking. He’s also a budding cheesemaker with a penchant for making his own brie, chevre, and ricotta, and he likes to cure his own meats and fish.

On the sporty side, Sam says he is, “rejuvenating his golf game after decades of neglect,” but his “real passion” is bird hunting.

Though born in Pennsylvania, Sam’s a longtime Contra Costa resident. After studying physiology at UC Davis, he spent four years early in his career in Michigan, but soon returned to California. He now lives with his wife, Nina, two daughters, a cat, and a dog in Walnut Creek.

Sam joined SAR in 2006 and took on another form of hunting—hunting for lost people. While finding and helping a subject is “enormously gratifying,” he also says it’s almost as important to know where the subject is not. “Knowing my team and I have covered a search area with the best Probability of Detection (POD)  we could deliver allows search managers to focus resources on areas with higher probability of finding the subject,” said Sam.

Sam’s career with SAR didn’t begin with the intent of the hunt, however. After 9/11, he said he was looking for a way to help others and be prepared in the event of a disaster. He learned about SAR from a recruiting table at REI and couldn’t wait to join, but he had to wait awhile for the Academy. The delay only built his enthusiasm. Once on the Team, he jumped right into the corporal position of New Members Liaison. As such, he helps translate his enthusiasm for the team to new recruits.

Through this shepherding process, he has learned important lessons about first impressions. “Some members who barely make it through the application and interview process have become SAR stars,” he says. “Others who seemed destined for greatness haven't even made it through the Type III Academy.”

Sam continues his efforts with this year’s recruits, and hopes to keep them as, “interested and engaged as possible.” As should we all.

Heating up

Last month at newsletter time we were talking about how slow things were in terms of callouts. What a difference a month makes. We had several out of county searches, a metal detector call, and we threw in an OES activation last week for good measure.

Last Monday night when the Chevron Refinery incident happened, I had came in to prepare for an activation of the County's Emergency Operations Center. Early in an incident of this type, it is difficult to predict how big of an operational area the response might need to cover. Activating the EOC requires personnel to come in and operate under the incident Command System to mitigate the situation. I am always a little worried that when the balloon goes up, the people who staff these positions will be overwhelmed by the incident and unable to show up. The EOC staff is made up of County employees from a variety of departments. This is standard practice in the industry. They bring government expertise and fill roles needed when fire and law enforecement are fully engaged in the field. Most of the staff have no direct emergency response experience. It's no reflection on them; it's just an infrastructure weakness. They have training, but little first-hand experience. The more stressful the incident, the harder it is for non-first responders to deal with.

When I arrived at OES to get the EOC ready, I was happy to find two dozen SAR members at OES for a scheduled training. While I didn't immediately have a role for them, I knew we'd be in good shape if this event turned into a full scale activation. The training, experience, and overall attitude of our membership gave me peace of mind and I knew we'd be able to staff and manage the operations center if needed. It is one more example of how special the SAR program is.

The event was timely. I have been discussing with my chain of command new initiatives I'd like to implement at OES and volunteer services.  These will increase our overall capability and provide new and interesting opportunities for the Sheriff's volunteer programs.

One of these programs is to create an EOC Support Team. This group would prepare and be trained to work in the EOC in time of activation. There are many moving parts and functions for these operations, and I need an in-house resource we can count on in an emergency. An EOC is much like a SAR command post, only inside a building. The SAR Team would do great in this role. While not a traditional SAR mission, this new group would be of great service to the citizens of Contra Costa County. We'll have more information on this—and a couple of other exciting things—over the next few months.

There are a number of things going on with the Team right now. Among other things, we're about to start a new Type III Academy. The Command Staff is in the midst of carrying out strategic planning for next year. We will be hammering out the budget the first week in September. Now is the time to raise the issue if a resource has needs that are unaddressed. Talk to your resource sergeant or division lieutenant. We can't promise to accommodate every request, but it can't hurt to submit an idea up through the management chain.

We had a very eventful month. I hope the calls continue. The Team trains hard in order to be prepared, and when responding, consistently brings world-class skills to bear. Thank you for your service!

Explorer Rafting Trip

On August 6th, 2012, Walter Eichinger and a group of CoCo SAR Explorers went on a three day camping and whitewater river rafting trip near the American River. This trip included class 3 rapids, sunburns, ping pong, and lots of pranks.

Here are some pictures of Walter and the soggy Explorers (Adam Blake, Alex Plam, Casey and Michael Riggs, Cody Million, Colton Bryson, Dominic Rosso, Greg Miller, Michael Lim, and Tyler Davis):