Searcher Spotlight: Alan Hirata

Only an engineer would analyze the equipment for a better methodology of bleeding control in the midst of caring for a patient—but that’s what Alan Hirata confesses to. Fortunately, his analytical trains of thought have only come during EMR training and not in the field.

"Being an engineer, I always like a problem in search of a solution," he says.

In SAR, he is constantly finding just that. Alan joined the team shortly after his wife, Tamie, came on board in 2007.

He's quiet—perhaps because he is busy analyzing—but Alan also has a wry sense of humor that he willingly aims at himself. When asked about leisure activities, for instance, he countered that SAR counts as one, doesn't it?

"Remember, I’m an engineer, and what we classify as fun is vastly different than that which is considered to be so by the general public," he says.

Alan is a Palo Alto native who, like Tamie, attended UC Berkeley (which is where they met) and so, too, lives now in Martinez with the rest of the Hirata SAR clan.

One form of engineering wasn't enough for him, so he double majored (or is it triple?) in electrical and nuclear engineering, and computer science. His career has led him through stints at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, at Flex Products, Inc., and at Siemens, working on everything from designing light rail vehicles to overhauling, repairing, and testing nuclear reactors. Currently he is a transit bus electrical design engineer at Gillig.

Ever examining the world around him, Alan looks at SAR as an interesting puzzle. "Given the choice of traveling on a nicely maintained trail or a steep hillside full of chest-high botanical growth, SAR always chooses the chest-high botanical growth," he says, tongue in cheek. "This is a metaphor for life, but I don’t remember what it means."

On the more serious side, though, he sees SAR as a well-engineered product. He sums it up thusly: "Take people from diverse backgrounds and interests, train them, put them together as a team, pay them nothing but compliments, and watch them kick buttocks and get the job done!"

Searcher Spotlight: Tamie Hirata

The dynamic duo of Ed Molascon and Bryan Walley, staffing a recruitment table in front of REI, brought SAR to the attention of Tamie Hirata some years ago. It was the first she had heard of the organization, and she was intrigued. Mostly, she thought she might get involved with the canine unit, since she had a dog adept at tracking.

Unfortunately, the pup was also adept at finding (and sharing) poison oak, something to which Tamie is extremely allergic. Thus, the dog training came off the table, but the rest of SAR did not. Tamie signed up in 2007.

She says SAR has given her the opportunity to gain many skills and grow her knowledge base, but she is still seeking her SAR niche: “I feel like there’s so much to learn.”

Tamie grew up in Walnut Creek, attended UC Berkeley, lived briefly in Vallejo and is now settled in Martinez. Though she has a yen for traveling and adventure, she hasn’t strayed far from her youthful home except on side trips around the country with family.

The exception was in March, when she took a trip to Cambodia with youngest son and fellow SAR member Alden, where they helped at a “Feed and Read” school. She loved the experience and hopes to do more. The need to explore is always with her, and she loves the outdoors.

Fortunately, her job with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as an air-quality inspector allows her to enjoy the latter and SAR gives her opportunities for both.

Meanwhile, SAR provides Tamie with the venue for reaching out to others while also staying close to her family, both priorities for her. (Husband, Alan, and daughter, Tori, are also SAR members. Eldest son Alex is not—yet.)

Tamie covets a teaching career, because she so loves working with children and youth. SAR connects with that aspect of her life, too. In fact, her first search was for a young autistic man.

“We were out all night, and one of the CoCo SAR teams found him,” she says. “That was an incredible feeling, and cemented my resolve to continue with SAR.”