SAR Coordinator’s Note

WP KovarAs the Team has closed out 2013 I want to take a moment to thank each and every SAR member for their incredible contributions to the SAR Team and the Office of the Sheriff this past year.  SAR Team members contributed over 45,000 hours of service to the team and the community you serve in 2013.  This contribution equates to over 20 full time positions in the Office of the Sheriff. This is a salary equivalency of over $2.5 million dollars. 

The SAR Team participated in 53 missions, countless medical details, PR details and other special functions through-out the year.  In accomplishing the above, the SAR Team supported 22 different law enforcement agencies in and around the county.  Additionally, the SAR team responded to 12 mutual aid call outs outside of Contra Costa County.

There were many noteworthy callouts, starting with the New Years Day epic carryout of a rescued hiker in the hills of Marin. There was a multi-day search for a naked 6’ 8” tall man in Sonoma County in the Spring.  We had two team members on separate searches locate a missing subject while en-route to the CP.  Our growing trailing K9 resource continued to see more calls for service.  There was the successful find of the missing 4yo girl in Richmond (asleep under her bed).

On a more somber note, our team assisted with body recoveries in Solano and Nevada Counties. While sad, these searches brought about closure to the missing person’s families. 

In 2013 the team continued to assist with evidence searches helping local agencies with personnel and expertise. One event included the eradication of a pot grow on a remote island in the Delta. Additionally, the metal detector squad participated in many evidence searches and successfully recovered weapons and elicit drugs.

In September the SAR Team was tasked with responding to the Morgan wild land fire on the East side of Mt. Diablo.  This was a difficult call and required a very dynamic and flexible response by all.  The team played a critical role in evacuation of residents at risk from the wildfire.

Another disaster related capability the team played a critical role in was the Urban Shield Mass Fatality exercise in October.  Urban Shield tested the County’s capability to respond to a mass fatality event. This exercise proved that the SAR Team is critical to the County’s response to large disasters and has paved the way for future integration.

The above only briefly touches on the incredible amount of work each member dedicates to the team.  But it is a testament to your dedication.

The team is situated and ready for an incredible 2014.  I can’t wait to be a part of it with you.

Training Paying Off

WP Kovar

This team constantly trains to improve and be the best.  The marathon Emergency Medical Responder class, monthly team trainings, Hasty trainings, or specific resource trainings that happen month in and month out demonstrate we are constantly striving to improve.  This training, combined with your focus on the mission, is the reason the SAR team is one of the best programs in the state.

This past weekend was the perfect example of this team’s professionalism and capability.  We had outstanding coverage on all shifts throughout the County Fair.  This year’s fair was one of the smoothest fairs in memory.  Arrests and medical calls were lower than average.  With that said, there were several notable situations requiring ALS transport to the hospital.  From what I could see, everyone was extremely professional and focused on providing excellent care.  I want to thank everyone for taking their jobs seriously and providing exceptional public service this past weekend.

In the middle of the fair Friday night we were pre-empted to respond to Richmond to assist with a search for a missing 4-year-old girl.  This type of callout has the potential of becoming a major campaign search due to the victim’s risk.  Logistically our response was challenged as most of our equipment was committed to the fair. We were ready.  Prior to the fair we set up a vehicle with a basic CP cache just in case there was a search during the fair. 

And true to expectations we received this callout on Friday evening.  The search was a textbook example of why we train and insist on following specific procedures. When we arrived on scene, Richmond PD had been actively searching for the missing girl for about three hours. We were briefed on the situation and on what had been searched.  We were ensured the house had been searched and cleared.  Nevertheless, our first assignment was to re-search the residence.  In less than 10 minutes, the girl was found safe, asleep under a bed at the house.  This search had all the earmarks of going huge quickly.  Richmond Police had a lot of resources committed. And we were planning on going full team and had requested additional state resources to respond.

The response to Richmond had some technical issues, but the human factor worked perfectly.  As team members arrived, they quickly took on reflex tasks important to the beginning of the search.  Re-searching the house was not a major achievement or any reason to high five each other. Researching the house is based on past experience and standard practices we employ when we come on scene.  We train in hasty training and search management courses to do this.  It is not a reflection on the host agency.  It is just a fact: Sometimes things are missed.  Our thoroughness is not perfect, but we strive for it. In this case the situation resolved quickly.  Having everyone following a standard SOP ensured this case resolved quickly and positively.  The team’s actions that Friday evening were a reflection of our training.

We train hard as a team to be able to do the best job we can when called.  The County Fair and the Richmond search were two examples of our training and commitment paying off.   You all should be proud to be part of a program that makes a difference.

2012 SAR Coordinator Awards

Last month we honored the SAR Members (Murphy/ Murray), Rookie (Griffith) and Explorers (Riggs twins) of the Year. Their contributions over the past year made them extremely well deserving team members. Their individual accomplishments made a major impact on the team.

As I mentioned during the Volunteer Banquet, trying to narrow recognition down to a few people is difficult given the size of the team.

The SAR team annually contributes over 40,000 hours to the mission. This means a lot of people are doing exceptional work on this team.

To try and ensure that we give proper recognition commensurate with the size of this program we have the SAR Coordinator Award. The members who receive this are chosen by the SAR Command Staff for their contributions to the success of the team over the past year.

2012 SAR Coordinator Awards:

Josh Israel, Chris Retta and Judy Apfel
These three people played a critical role as part of the SAR logistics resource this year. Along with the other dedicated members of the group, they ensured equipment was ready and deployed as needed. The best way to demonstrate the effectiveness of the logistics resource is when they are not part of the pre-event preparation, there is a distinct drop-off on our ability to be ready to respond. These three played huge roles in ensuring the academy was ready, team trainings were ready and countless other events had what they needed to be successful. Managing logistics is neverending; it’s not high profile and it’s probably not recognized enough. This group has been a huge contributor this year.

Caroline Thomas Jacobs
Caroline has been a dynamo this year taking on the role of member-at-large and redefining this position into the team ombudsman. The team ombudsman is a vital link between the membership and the Command Staff. It provides a person that the membership can rely on to answer critical questions regarding the direction of the team.
Caroline in her spare time took on the role of team training sergeant as well. She took the single biggest training of the year, the full-team medical training, and made it bigger and better than in previous years. Caroline’s hand has been involved in most of the monthly team trainings since then. Her dedication to making the team better is exemplary.

Joe Keyser
Joe has been heavily involved in the Mountain Rescue Group for the past several years. This year he took on the management and execution of the Type 1 required Wilderness Medical Responder class. This was no easy task. The curriculum had to be built from the ground up and instructors trained on the required topics. Joe took additional training to build his skills. He filled a training void on the team and ensured the Type 1 resource maintained a high level of medical training.

Steve Filippoff
Steve has been one of the leads of the USAR resource over the past few years. He is quiet and unassuming, but has been instrumental in building the USAR resource into an extremely competent and cohesive unit. His professionalism and drive to increase everyone’s competence and his drive to get better makes him stand out. And if his total dedication was not enough, he has embarked on training a K9 in SAR. His dedication to the mission is extraordinary.

Jeremiah Dees
Jeremiah has been on the team for some time. He has made his mark on the technical operations of the team. He is the lead of the USAR resource and a key technical operator in the Mountain Rescue Group. His competence and leadership have raised the technical bar in both groups. He has been able to help marry the two disciplines of USAR and mountain rescue to build both programs by making them come together. His focus on safety and his technical expertise is unmatched. His ability to communicate the direction, ensure safe operations and at the same time build competence is paying huge dividends in how our team manages technical rescue operations.

Pierce Plam
Pierce while helping others publish the monthly newsletter has now inherited the title of publisher. While many help put together the monthly newsletter, his expertise in the software to build the online newsletter is what keeps it going month after month. People don’t join the team to publish newsletters. But the newsletter is important to the team. Pierce tirelessly and with good humor continues to make this publication happen.

David Cossu and Andy Csepely
Dr.’s Cossu and Csepely are the brains behind the CP. We are fortunate to have a huge variety of technical capabilities when we run a CP. Wired networks, printers, plotters, gps downloads etc. Without their work behind the scenes to ensure it all runs smoothly, we’d still be doing everything old school. The majority of the team does not see what it takes to keep this aspect of the team running and evolving. These two individuals bring us some world-class technical expertise that sets this team apart.

Antoine Snijders, Paul Moss and Jim Gay
There is a lot of work that goes into keeping our medical equipment up to standard as well as ensuring our medical details are well staffed. These three played a variety of roles to ensure we were ready for both trainings and scheduled events. Whether it was restocking equipment, scheduling events or ensuring we have the proper staffing, this was the responsibility of these three. Their work was almost all behind the scenes but instrumental in ensuring we were ready to provide our medical services to the public.

Diane Blue
Diane for many years has been involved in the recruiting and hiring of countless SAR volunteers. She puts in a lot of hours day in and day out contacting prospective applicants, processing their paperwork and shepherding these candidates through to the academy. Her positive personality and follow-through have ensured we continue to bring in quality applicants. She’s the perfect SAR ambassador.

Closing
I’ve mentioned many times that there are many team members doing remarkable things to ensure the team’s growth and success. The above names make up only part of why this team is so amazing. But if you look at the work done by these individuals it becomes very easy to see that with-out them, this team would be much different. This team would be much smaller, much less technically competent and much less capable of helping those in need. It is no small feat. Please take a moment and thank them for their service to the mission.

Honoring Fellow SAR Members

The talent and dedication that this team exhibits on a daily basis is amazing. In 2012, over 41,000 hours of service was contributed by the team. These hours represent recruiting members for, training in preparation of, and responding to searches.  We call it dedication to mission – the “mission.”
 
It was in honor of the mission that we gathered together for the Sheriff’s Volunteer Services Banquet Feb. 15. At this event individuals from each of the units within Volunteer Services were recognized for individual achievement in their respective units. 
 
I had the honor of presenting several SAR members in their respective categories. While SAR is a team effort and we do not do this for individual accolades, with that said, we took the time to honor some deserving team members this year.
 
For me this is the toughest decision we make all year. The Command Staff reviewed and discussed over a dozen worthy individuals. All members considered in their own right could be, and should be recognized. Unfortunately we are limited in this situation. Next month we will be recognizing those members who received nominations and give them their due recognition.

 

SAR Explorer(s) of the Year

There was no way that we could have recognized one of the “Rescue Twins” and not the other this year. Casey and Micheal Riggs are the Co-Explorers of the Year. This is well-deserved recognition. The Rescue Twins participated in the most searches by the Explorers and contributed the most hours among the Explorers. Explorer Advisor Walt Eichinger writes, “They have positive spirit, they’re always eager to help and they have a strong desire to learn new things.”
 
Their participation in all aspects of the team is commendable. They attended 11 of 12 team trainings, numerous medical details, completed 80 hours of first responder training, proctored trainings and mentored new Explorers.  Additionally, they are training to be certified in USAR and the Type 1 resource. Their participation in all aspects of the team is commendable. The Riggs led all other Explorers in hours (Casey 491 Michael 483). The Rescue Twins are well deserving of the 2012 SAR Explorers of the Year.

 

2012 SAR Rookie of the Year

Ed Griffith has been selected as the SAR Rookie of the Year by his peers on the team. Ed graduated with the 2011 SAR Academy after retiring as a sergeant with the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office in 2010 after a 20-plus-year career.  Ed wasn’t ready for the life of golf and bridge clubs, so he sought out the team as the perfect service-oriented group for his background. (That and I think his wife Suzy needed to get him out of the house.)

 
From the start, Ed made a great impression on the team. His background and experience has been a huge plus for the unit. Ed’s quiet professionalism becomes readily apparent the more interaction you have with him. Whatever you ask of him, he’s willing to do to help out. Ed played a huge role in the 2012 SAR Academy acting as the Academy corporal. In this role he mentored, cajoled and sometimes “urged” students towards success. His dedication to the mission in his short time with the team makes him SAR Rookie of the Year.

 

 

SAR Member(s) of the Year

 

As has been the tradition in the past few years, we were able to select two members as SAR Member(s) of the Year. With over 200 people on the team and the incredible work put in by everyone this past year, I’d like to thank Wilma Murray and Tim Murphy for their great service this year.

 
Tim Murphy
Tim joined the team in 2010 with his fiancée Laura Carmody. From the beginning, Tim hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. He was last year’s SAR Rookie of the Year. In 2012, Tim attended all 12 out of 12 monthly team trainings. He contributed over 800 hours of service to the SAR Team. And on top of this, when he’s not doing SAR, he also volunteers with the Sheriff’s Dive Team.
 
One of Tim’s primary focuses on the team is as one of the leaders of the Team’s Urban Search and Rescue Resource. This is a dedicated sub group on the team training for disaster response in preparation for when the “big one” hits. While there are several key people that make the USAR resource successful, Tim is an integral component. Tim has learned his craft and cross trained with local fire departments and he brings these skills back to train others on the team.  He consistently steps up and helps at various team trainings. When something needs to get done, he’s there to lend a hand.
 
If all this was not enough to keep Tim busy, in the past few months Tim embarked on training a canine to do search and rescue work. This is a huge commitment and once his training is completed, he will add another incredible resource to the team. Tim is always willing to lend a hand and to come in to OES on a moment’s notice and ensure our equipment is ready. His positive attitude, contribution to the mission and willingness to serve makes him a great SAR Member of the Year.
 
Wilma Murray
Wilma occasionally questions whether she has what it takes to perform what is expected of a SAR member … which I think is her way of disarming you. She is one of the most active members on the team. She, too, joined SAR out of the 2010 Academy along with her husband Paul and has made her mark on the team. (The 2010 academy produced some great members.) Not only is Wilma a fixture responding to searches, she participates in the USAR, man-tracking and metal detector resources. In 2012, she contributed over 600 hours of service to the team. 
 
Wilma is a key player in shaping the SAR team’s future. She currently helps run our new member recruiting and helps manage our monthly new member orientations. In addition, she plays a huge role in our coaching program, allowing our new volunteers to be actively engaged with team veterans to ensure they successfully integrate onto the team. Her drive to continue the growth of the team through quality new members is exemplary and demonstrates her commitment. 
 
Wilma is also the team’s recording secretary and resident newsletter editor and article enforcer. (She hounded me for two weeks for this month’s article … but I didn’t want her to get the scoop on this award!)
 
Two instances this year on searches show me how, even though she questions whether she is a SAR operator, she really is. Early in the year we conducted a very extensive search in Crockett for a despondent gentleman. Late in the day, one of our teams found the subject’s body inside a drain pipe with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Everyone was tired and facing the less-than-thrilling idea of a body recovery.
 
In preparation of fielding a recovery team, I asked the members on stand-by at the CP who could stick around and assist the coroner with the recovery. Wilma was the first to raise her hand and volunteer. It’s one thing to volunteer to search, it’s another to volunteer to bag a decomposing body and carry it out of a ravine. Like the others that volunteered, Wilma was an operator and helped us complete the task.
 
The other example was on New Year’s Eve a little over a month ago as we assisted Marin County with the search and eventual rescue of a wayward hiker on Mt. Tamalpais. The terrain was brutal and the victim had severe hypothermia. Getting to the victim was no easy task. Once the gentleman was packaged in the rescue litter, it took four-and-a-half hours to carry him out to where an ambulance could take him to the hospital. There was no way to airlift him out and there was no defined trail to on which to extricate him. It was all bushwhacking over very steep terrain.
 
This patient carry out was epic and required multiple rope raising and lowering systems, as well as good-old-fashioned manpower to hand carry the victim to safety. Wilma was there every step of the way. She was so focused on the extraction that near the end of the carryout a tree stump jumped out and tripped her and she went *** over tea kettle off the trail and landed in a blackberry bramble below. Not injured, she shook herself off, climbed back onto the trail and continued assisting with the carryout. If she ever doubted she is an operator, that night should give her the confidence to know she is.
 
Wilma, Tim the recognition of SAR Member of the Year is well deserved for both of you. Congratulations.

 

Special mention goes to SAR team members Andy Comly, who received the Reserve Deputy of the Year award, and Ed Molascon, who received the Volunteer Services Volunteer of the Year.  Both are incredibly dedicated and though their first home is SAR, have made great contributions to the Sheriff's Volunteer Program as a whole.
 
I want to thank everyone on the team for a great year of service and I look forward to working with you throughout 2013.

 

Success Through Competence: 2012 Was a Great Year

As we have closed out 2012, I want to personally thank each and every team member for his/her contributions to the continued growth and success of the team. We continue to build on a world-class organization and make it better and better. As a manager of a program, one could not hope for more. The SAR program is a huge asset to the Office of the Sheriff and the citizens of our community. They are very appreciative of your combined efforts.

In 2012 the team had some amazing accomplishments. Some significant statistics from 2012 are as follows:

  • COCOSAR members contributed 41,500 hours of service.
  • The team fulfilled 57 missions (includes both searches and medical details), 39 of which were in-county missions and 18 were out of county mutual-aid missions.
  • The team assisted 29 different public-safety agencies throughout the state of California in 2012.

These numbers do not tell the whole story of this team. The commitment and focus to the mission everyone has is directly responsible for why the team continues to grow and get better. Your individual responses to callouts, no matter what time they come, has been incredible.

As a team, we have been able to get plenty of resources on scene when it counts. We consistently bring the largest contingent of searchers to whichever county we’re responding to. In turn, we are providing an incredible service to the missing people we assist in looking for.

For me the most significant aspect of our ability to respond with big numbers is not about having the most SAR members at any given search. It is the fact that we are consistently regarded as extremely competent and professional when we arrive. We have a large team, but most importantly we have a well-trained professional team that continues to make a difference whereever we respond.

As an example; at two out of county searches in December, as soon as we arrived, we were given large divisions over which to take management. Allied agencies trust that we know what we’re doing.

Why are we seen as one of the best? Every team member has bought into our training requirements, our fitness requirements and the minimum standards set for the team. These standards are above and beyond what CALEMA requires to operate in the SAR environment.

This is not a knock on any other team. Many teams have as high, and in some cases, higher standards. What we have is incredible numbers to go along with incredibly competent operators.

You dedicate a lot of time and personal capital to train and be a part of this team. It has paid off countless times this past year.

Early in the year we conducted a huge search for a suicidal subject in Crockett. We developed a plan, had a strategy and executed it extremely well. It resulted in us locating the decedent in a drain pipe near the edge of the search area.

We fielded 120 people that day. Most large-scale mutual-aid searches are not that big. This subject would not have been found quickly without that combination of size and SAR competency.

In April, we were requested by investigations to clear a marijuana grow in the Los Vaqueros watershed. Our fitness requirements and ability to work in difficult terrain greatly assisted in quickly clearing this area with no injuries.

In August, we cleared another significant pot grow in Oakley. This is not glamorous, but our assistance to Sheriff’s Office investigation in both instances saved valuable man hours and accomplished the request quickly.

In September, when CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was killed in the line of duty, team members immediately responded for incident support and around-the-clock support at the vigil outside the coroner’s office. This situation is definitely outside the realm of SAR, but the willingness to do whatever is asked in support of the Sheriff’s Office is not. This support, while behind the scenes and not very glamorous, was a huge benefit to the grieving family and coworkers of the fallen officer.

Then the month of October hit us. We had a total of 13 missions for the month. This was a very high op tempo for the team. Yet we were able to consistently get there and make a difference. We sent 25 on a Tuesday morning to Solano for a missing person. We had four separate Type 1 requests. We sent strong groups of people and were instrumental in the rescue and recovery of multiple victims that month. It was a perfect storm of conditions and the SAR Team met every request with enthusiasm, commitment and competence.

I guarantee our calls for service will be higher this year. Our reputation with the state and counties we assist grew exponentially with the service we provided this past year. In 2013, we will continue to expand the depth and competence of our team. We’ll continue to train hard and respond when called. And when we are called, we will be competent, confident and not cocky.

We must balance being a large and very capable team with being humble and not arrogant when working with other programs. It is OK to take pride in this team’s excellence, but it is better to be competent, prepared and humble when working with other teams. It is going to be a great year.

A Reputation Built on Experience

As we near the end of the year, I’d like to once again thank all of you for an outstanding year of service. With a little less than a month left in 2012, we’re on track for a slightly lower than average callout year.This past year we’ve had 47 callouts.

As you all know, training and planning takes much of your time to be mission-ready. When we combine training, planning and actual operations, the team has logged over 40,000 hours in service this year. This is an incredible number and a testament to your dedication to the mission. All 200-plus members participated at varying levels to make this a great year for the team.

Of the 47 missions, 16 were mutual-aid requests to counties other than Contra Costa. This number is slightly more than our average. The big difference was the number of Type 1 out-of-county calls the team responded to. Seven calls were true Type 1 calls. Over the past few years, the average Type 1 mission tempo has been two to three. I equate this increase to the team’s reputation and not to the number of opportunities.

More and more this year our team has been specifically requested by outside agencies to assist. This is a direct result of the hard work and professionalism the team lives by. The team’s reputation is a byproduct of that hard work.

We’ve had some pretty significant calls where the team truly made a difference in the outcome. Without going into details on each mission, I want to convey the appreciation the department has for your dedicated service. Every time you participate in a SAR event, you have the potential to make a difference.

A Search and Rescue career is based on education and experience. Active participation has a cumulative effect for every team member, whether a brand new academy student or a veteran with years of experience. It is one thing to take a class, but nothing beats the learning experience of a real-world search. When we call you out on a search, it’s because we need your help to come make a difference for the missing or at-risk person. When you do respond to the callout, you make an immediate impact on someone’s life, and while doing that, you learn and gain valuable experience to be better prepared for future missions.

Focus on Success

This has been quite a month. Between completing the 2012 SAR Academy and bringing 38 new members on the team, we experienced one of the busiest months of operations we have had in a long time. One quarter of our total missions for 2012 were handled in the month of October.

On every callout, the team performed outstanding, professional service and made the difference on many searches. At the last staff meeting, we reviewed every mission and discussed what went well and evaluated what areas we can improve on. We have created an improvement plan matrix to ensure we as a team consistently address any areas of improvement.

This continuous improvement process is one of the key points that sets this team apart. We as a culture do not allow the status quo.  Each member plays a huge role in building this program and ensuring its continued growth and success.

The Office of the Sheriff does appreciate the team's work. Each time the SAR Team deploys, a report is generated and sent to every department member from sergeant up to the sheriff. In this report is a brief synopsis of where the team is going and what it is doing.

The respect and gratitude from the full-time staff continues to grow and evolve. The last incident report included the following narrative from the on-call duty officer:

"Yesterday at about 1200 hours in Santa Cruz County, CCCSO SAR members located the missing subject deceased. All members returned to the op area at 1430 hours.

"As always, thanks go out to every volunteer member that was able to assist. Many of these team members have not only been available for nearly every call in the past month, but have played strong roles performing background tasks within the group, from logistics to training new members. All on their own time … all without complaint."

The fact that everyone is singularly focused on the team's success has been demonstrated at all levels of the team this past month.  No matter how big or how small the contribution, you made a difference to those we serve. Thank you.

Measured Growth

This has been a very good month.

We just completed an extremely successful New Member Academy.  The team graduated 38 new Type 3 Team Members. This number included 13 very enthusiastic Explorer youth members.  To a person, this was a great group. Our recruiters, HR team and oral board evaluators did a great job putting this year's academy together.  The academy staff and the additional 80+ team members who assisted during the academy set a gold standard for the new members.  We’ve added the new graduates to the callout roster. They’re going to pay huge dividends in the near future.

Separately, on October 5th, the Red Cross honored the Search and Rescue Team with a Community Heroes award. This award recognized the incredible work that the team has performed over the past year.  This award was also accompanied by proclamations from the State Assembly, State Senate, a member of Congress and the Board of Supervisors recognizing the team for outstanding achievement. 

We as a team do not do what we do for recognition and accolades.  But it is professionally rewarding to know the work each and every member contributes is recognized by groups like the Red Cross as well as our elected bodies.  As long as the team stays focused on the mission and performs at a level way beyond expectations, people will notice.  That is what is happening with the latest trend.  We’re being recognized for consistently providing the best service in the State. 

Finally, I want to give special recognition to our K9 program. As you know we recently got two trailing dogs on-line.  Additionally the K9 leadership has been working to update their SOPs and training manual to create a firm resource foundation.  The COCOSAR K9s have been working in coordination with our CARDA-affiliated members.  This group as a whole is really improving our K9 capabilities across the board.

This month the state has requested K9 trailing services through mutual aid to assist other counties.  In addition our HRD/Decomp dogs have been requested to assist with several crime scenes in Hercules and San Joaquin county.  This past week our handlers recovered human remains from a train vs. pedestrian in Oakley that weren’t recovered during the initial investigation. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a strong K9 program is going to increase the team’s missions.  The recent Clayton hasty search was originally a straight request from Clayton PD for “bloodhounds” to search for a medically at-risk 63-year-old man.  The officers were only looking for a dog to assist them.  When we spoke to them, we offered up the Hasty squad in addition to the K9s.  Clayton PD didn’t know that was an option.  Our Hasty squad responded (as did our K9s) and as a direct result of the Hasty squad's subsequent investigations, the subject was located.  We’ll see more of these situations as our dogs get requested.

We are going to see an uptick in requests for service as our overall capability expands.  The hard work the K9s are doing is going to ensure the work keeps coming.  This coupled with the great work all of you are doing ensures when we are called we provide the best service we can to the Office of the Sheriff and the county.  Thanks again

We are a Team

While call outs this past month have been almost non-existent, there has been some incredible work going on.  The biggest team highlight is we started a new SAR Academy this past Tuesday.  There are 40 brand new potential team members that will soon be added to our roster.  Vetting and hiring these people into the academy took a monumental team effort.  Diane Blue and Wilma Murray (SAR Den Mom’s) took the lead in processing and bringing this group in. And a host of other members were integral in this effort.  There were countless members who assisted with oral boards, uniform fitting, new member coaching, and logistics support to pull this effort off.  This was an incredible team effort.  Thanks to all who assisted getting this academy up and running.

Also this past month the team has received some significant positive press.  Because of the SAR team’s incredible commitment, we as an organization sometimes get recognized for our overall accomplishments and contributions to the community.  The team is on a roll lately.  This past week I was informed that the SAR team was given a “Community Hero Award” from the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.  

The Bay Area American Red Cross wrote:
The nominating committee for the Red Cross, Contra Costa Hero’s Breakfast read the nomination of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Team and selected them as one of our 2012 Contra Costa County Heroes! Their story truly inspired our nominating committee. On behalf of the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, we are pleased to announce that we want to honor them with a Community Service – Organization Hero award. 

Every member played a major role in the team receiving this honor.  The training, preparation and personal capital each and every team member contributes day in and day out is what sets this team apart.  For those interested the Red Cross will be hosting an awards ceremony on October 5th at the San Ramon Country Club.

We don’t do what we do for personal recognition. But when we as a team are recognized for overall achievement we should take pride in this moment.  As a team we work together to maintain a unit that is prepared to do anything we’re asked.  The commitment to the mission and incredible work this team performs is second to none.

The Sheriff’s Office is proud of this organization and appreciates everything you do.

Thanks

 

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!