A Day in the Life of a Type 1 Rookie

By Paul Healypaul healy

I have been on the CoCo SAR team since 2010, but didn’t become a Type 1 member until this August.

Below are some Type 1 rookie musings from the second Type 1 search I attended, which was on October 5. With me were John Banuelos, Natalie Zensius, Chris Coelho and Mark Whiting.

(Some sanitized four-letter words here replace the ones actually in my head.)

1930 on Sunday: Our company has finally gone and now it’s time for some recliner and TV-watching. I’m exhausted; I feel too old for three-day weekends with the boys. Ten minutes later, my cell phone goes off and I see “000 000 0000” on the screen. Oh, crap!

The remote voice tells me: “15-year-old hunter missing in Mendocino County, due back at 1000.

CP at 0900 Grizzly Flats Hwy 162 and M-1. Type 1 for yes, 2 for no.”

Hmm, all right, what’s on the agenda for tomorrow? My boss may be pissed, but my work can wait. I need to be at OES, ready to leave at 0300; need to go through my 24-hour pack and pull and prep for 72. Damn, I need to get to bed.

0200: The alarm goes off.

0255: I arrive at OES.

Oh crap!  I’m late; they are packed and ready; 0300 means leave not meet.

0310: We leave OES. It’s a six-hour ride and I’m wondering where we’re going. Coehlo? Never heard of it.

0700:  The sun is rising over the valley, 20 miles inland from Hwy 101 and we have 17 more miles on this gravel ridge road to the top.

0830: After a scary journey, we reach our destination at CP.

0835: Operations is ready for us with our assignments.

Let’s get moving!

0845: Briefing. We’re told the young man was to be hunting in this area. The place last seen (PLS) is shown to us on the map. We get his picture; the kid is a TV “Survivalist” fan and we’re told to expect him to travel down a drainage to the river. Our assignment is to search the Thatcher Creek drainage as far as possible, returning at 1600. One of our team was to work with the CARDA handler up stream while the rest of us headed down stream. Our best route to our search area is to travel on fire roads to meet up with ATVs for further travel.

We get our maps and are sent off with a “Good luck.”

0945: We call CP as we get stopped–the fire road we’ve been traveling on is no longer a road. There are four concrete/metal barriers across a washed-out trail.

0950: We communicate with the ATV team via radio to let them know our position in relationship to theirs.

0955: CP tells us that attempts to come pick us up by ATV will not work as they have barriers at their end, too.

1010: CP tells us to meet the helicopter at Grizzly Camp for transport.

1020: We arrive at Grizzly Flat and look for parking.

Yikes is that the family? Can’t park here … how about along the road over there?

1100: We board the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s helicopter.

Damn nice ride, what a view. Hope all the pot growers don’t think we are searching for them and start shooting.

1115: We start our search assignment. Have some snacks. Orient map; start tracks.

Damn, comms won’t work in this part of canyon.

“Let’s go. Paul you got right, Natalie center, I’ll get the left,” Chris says.

1125: Oh crap, was that a print I just stepped on? Good, here is another one … could these be his?

“Chris, Nat, check this out. Let’s get Baneulos before he heads upstream. There are more down here.” CP wants us to stay with the original plan, but keep aware of more prints if they continue in our search area.

1338: We hear the news: Subject found, all teams return to CP; we make our way back to the landing zone to await our helicopter ride out.

1415: Full barbecue, smiles all around.

1436: Getting ready to head home when we see a couple of vans ahead. The people inside are all waving and smiling.

Of course, it must be the family. That’s why we do this.

2046: Back at OES. Clean up and put all the gear away. Sign out and in the car; home in 25…

Archived Medical Articles

Round-up of published medical topics
Several past editions of The Callout, in its prior incarnation as a newsletter, feature great articles and guides for the medical skills required for Emergency Medical Responders, a certification required of all CoCoSAR Type II and Type I team members.

Compiled below is a list of topics and articles with links to the newsletter. The original author, if available, is also noted. (Please note: requires login to the team members' website to view these articles.)

Step-by-step illustrated guides

Head-to-Toe Assessment, April 2011, Page 8

Bleeding Control and Bandaging, May 2011, Page 8

Splinting and the Sling, May 2011, Page 9

CPR

New CPR Procedures, June 2011, Page 10 

CPR and AED FAQS, by Carol and Mike McMillian, February 2012, Page 11 

Vital Signs

Blood Pressure Basics, by Laura Carmody, RN, October 2011, Page 7 

Blood Pressure: A Closer Look, November 2011, Page 12 

Oxygen

SAR Oxygen Pack, by Mike McMillan, August 2010, Page 11

The Little Green Bottle, by Ian Snelson, August 2010, Page 12 

March Full Team Training

10001134_825720180788377_175787097_oMount Diablo State Park again played host to CoCoSAR’s monthly full-team training. The March edition was a Type 2 fitness hike. In contrast to the driving rain and wind that challenged searchers during the February mock search training, the March weather was postcard-perfect.

The hike is a 6-mile loop, circling the upper slopes of Mount Diablo with 1,600 feet of cumulative elevation gain. To maintain Type 2 status, each member must complete the course with a 20-pound pack in under 3 ½ hours.

Beginning from the Laurel Nook picnic area (2,900 feet), the route heads up Juniper Trail to the summit overflow lot (3,700 feet), then down the Summit and North Peak trails to Prospectors Gap (3,000 feet). The descent continues along Bald Ridge Trail to Murchio Gap and onto Meridian Ridge Road. Near the junction with Mitchell Canyon Road (2,000 feet), the climbing resumes up Deer Flat Road, with a difficult final mile back to Juniper Campground.

Larry Fong organized the training and reported 29 team members successfully completed the hike. An additional 30 team members provided support, as roving or stationary proctors on the course, time-keepers, medics and radio communications.

Four other Type 2 qualifying hikes are planned for 2014.

February Full Team Training

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CoCoSAR’s Mountain Rescue Group organized the February full-team training, a mock search in Mount Diablo State Park. “If it ain't raining; it ain't training,” said Chris Coelho, MRG sergeant, as dark gray storm clouds massed overhead and searchers gathered, bright orange and hooded, at the staging area.

Staging did not stay full for long because the search ramped up very quickly. Teams deployed to scour Mitchell Canyon for two missing subjects. “We put 52 searchers in the field within the first 30 minutes,” said Caroline Thomas-Jacobs, demonstrating an adjustment made by Command Post staff, following the mock night search training, in November 2013.

The first subject to be located, played by team member Natalie Zensius, required extraction by a technical rope rescue team. “I had a unique opportunity to experience what it feels like on the ‘other side’ and be rescued,” she said. “In less-than-stellar conditions, I was quickly warmed and stabilized so that I could be packaged and transported down the mountain.”

Shawn Inks, handling communications for Team 4, located the second subject. “I turned around and saw him,” he said, “but it was kind of lucky. The trail was muddy and treacherous, so we were mostly looking ahead and down.”

Weather was a major factor, hampering radio communications, as well as visibility and trail conditions. “If we had to search Mount Diablo in the rain, this is exactly what it would be like,” said Reza Farasati. “The problems we have today are the problems we’d have to overcome in a real search.”

Wilderness Emergency Medical Responder Class

By Joe Keyser

This winter, 16 team members completed the wilderness upgrade to CoCoSAR's Emergency Medical Responder course.
 
This is a hands-on 30-hour course that focuses on applying the medical skills we learned in the EMR course to a wilderness environment. The course tries to answer the question: What do you do when there is no 911 to call? When YOU are 911?
 
Students studied a wide variety of subjects, including patient assessment in the wilderness, environmental illness, musculoskeletal injuries, altered levels of consciousness and many others, with a focus on extended patient care and long difficult evacuations. Evacuation decisions, or how to tell "big sick" from "little sick" were a special focus. The class also spent several hours practicing making improvised splints, litters, and bandages out of tarps, trekking poles, and other items commonly in a backpack.
 
The class had students responding to multiple simulated wilderness medical emergencies. On the last day, the class participated in a simulated mass-casualty incident. This training tested the students' assessment and treatment skills as well as their management and communication skills.
 
Special thanks to: Walt Eichinger, Todd Rogers, John Banuelos, Larry Fong, John Venturino, Mike McMillan, David Hoyt, Laura Carmody and Jim Gay for their help proctoring the class.

Mock Search: November Full Team Training Recap

By Randy Franks

The fewer hours of daylight in fall and winter increase the likelihood of searching in the dark. With Standard Time bringing the onset of darkness even earlier, Contra Costa Search and Rescue used its November full-team training to conduct a nighttime mock search.

Wilma Murray developed the scenario, which was conducted on the Muir Heritage Land Trust’s Fernandez Ranch open space. Scouts and parents from Boy Scout Troop 277 and a few other willing individuals volunteered as the subjects and their distraught families, earning praise all around for not only the commitment of their time, but also well-acted roles and valuable observations during the after-action debrief.

“The guy we found, Graham, I figured he was playing the autistic boy we were briefed to expect,” said Don Kavanagh. “But a couple different times during the rescue, I thought ‘Is he actually autistic?’ He was into it, very well done.”

The scenario involved a small group of 12 and 13 year old boys who ventured into the hills to launch homemade rockets. The volatile fuel source detonated unexpectedly, causing a range of injuries and disorientation. As dusk descended on the hilly 700-acre preserve, CoCoSAR deployed first a hasty squad and then as a full team.

The team used its full range of techniques. The first mission was a hasty search of the Command Post and immediate surroundings, which located one of the subjects in good condition within 20 minutes. He was less than 100 feet from CP, but completely hidden from view.

Team lead Brad Schimek was pleased. “It’s my first find!” he said. “Even though this is ‘just training,’ I’m genuinely proud we found him so quickly.”

Wilma Murray said later, “I placed that subject expecting he would either be found immediately or possibly not at all. I’m pleased that the team did its job and searched the CP. It is not unknown for a subject to be found very close to where searchers gather and still go unfound for several operational periods.”

Some of the team’s specialized resources and equipment were brought to bear on the missions. “[Search dog] Shannon did some good work tonight,” said handler Jennifer Wright. “It turned out our search area did not have any subjects, so no finds, but we were working well together.”

The FLIR night vision goggles were also deployed with John Banuelos’ admonishment: “The subject or clue could be behind heavy foliage, so you’ve still got to be observant. It’s night vision, not x-ray vision.”

Many new Type 2 and Type 3 team members participated. This was their first opportunity to employ new skills in a full-team environment and discover that SAR is “continuous learning.”

Luigi Pangilinan became a debriefer, a role he had only heard about during the academy, but had not experienced nor specifically trained for. “It was difficult, getting detailed accounts of search areas, especially when the team was not provided a map,” he said. “And I got cold sitting there. I really wanted go out on a mission, just to warm up.”

Another lesson emerged from the night’s last find, made by Team 17. After assisting with a live medical event involving a parent volunteer observer, the team resumed its training assignment, making many voice callouts, hearing cries for help, but not locating any subjects within their search area.

Team lead Robert Medearis said, “As we were preparing to return to CP, our navigator was focusing on getting us back onto the trail. The other three of us continued the search behind our navigator. Routine visual sweeps identified the subject down near a large oak tree.”

Cameron Soo, handling medical for the team, said it demonstrated how “we’ve got to stay sharp at all times, like on the return to CP. The assignment was covered, but the search was obviously still on.”

During the team debriefing, Operations Lieutenant Chris Nichols summed up the basic message of the night’s training. “Searching in the dark is hard,” he said to a murmur of assent, “and, this time of year, we should expect to do a lot more of it.”

Search Recap: The Mushroom Picker’s Daughter

By Patrick Dodson

What do SAR members think about while waiting in the staging area for an assignment? Maybe, did I bring the right gear; am I wearing the right clothing, what will the terrain be like; will I be the one to make the find?

Phil Novak and I were huddled under a tarp in Del Norte County, trying to avoid the rain, thinking about these things when we were confronted with the real reason we were there. A friendly young woman who introduced herself as “the daughter” came up to thank us for volunteering our time to the search effort.

She had traveled from San Diego to our location 20 miles south of the Oregon border to be present as SAR teams staged a search for the remains of her father, a man known to us as the “mushroom picker.” He had disappeared the previous January while searching for mushrooms with friends. This was to be a last-ditch effort to find his remains before the winter weather set in. 

This young woman wanted to express her gratitude and tell us what it meant to her.  She was amazed that people from throughout California would give up their weekends to search in difficult weather and terrain for a man they didn’t know.

As she spoke, it was clear that it was important to her that we knew about the man for whom we were looking. She was very proud of her father’s accomplishments in life. How else would we have learned we were searching for a man who was a world-class surfer? She was also very open about his challenges and the complexities of their relationship.

She looked at this event as a means of bringing closure to her father’s life and their relationship. She stated that no matter the results of our search, our efforts brought honor and respect to his life, and brought her a great deal of comfort.

This conversation brought Phil and I out of our concerns about the practical and tactical issues related to searching for the “subject” and made us reflect on the reason we do this. We were looking for a real person, with a life and a family, not just a picture on a flyer. The efforts of the searchers demonstrated the value and respect we all gave to this man’s life, and to the needs of the family.

We felt honored to be a part of helping the daughter deal with one of the most difficult times in her life. It took a young woman in the forests of Northern California to remind us that the importance of our mission extends far beyond search tactics and gear. Our conversation with her was the greatest reward we have had as members of CoCoSAR.

Beyond Searching: A Menu of Options for SAR Involvement

By Wilma Murray

Here’s a comment that I’ve been hearing a lot lately: I’d like to get more involved in SAR, but I don’t know where to begin. Hmm…attend any team business meeting on the first Wednesday of each month (1930 at OES) and you will most likely hear a plethora of needs announced. Look at the website, read the Callout … you will find there are activities going on behind the scenes every day.

As someone who likes to get into the middle of things, I know a little about involvement (you think?) and am happy to share some tips, both for newbies and for those who are finding themselves with a little more time of late and want to invest it in their SAR “career.” First off: It is not necessary to have a rank (corporal, sergeant, etc.) to take on important SAR jobs, so waiting for that open staff spot isn’t a prerequisite to getting going. What’s more important to consider are the answers to these questions:

  • Do you have ideas/passion/drive for a particular aspect of SAR?
  • What skill sets and talents do you bring to the table?
  • Who might you like to work for and with?

All of these answers are things to examine when looking to find your niche.

It also isn’t necessary to be more than a Type III to become involved. Type III searches don’t come around as often as we all might like, which means Type IIIers don’t see as much action for callouts. But there is still plenty to do to benefit the team and keep it mission-ready. Resources The most obvious choice is to join a resource. While some resources require a Type I or II status, both USAR and the Metal Detector resources do not, and both resources are active. (In fact, the Metal Detector Resource has had a trio of recent searches.) Check the calendar on the website for trainings, but in general, USAR trains the third Saturday of the month and Metal Detector Resource trains the last Monday evening of the month. All levels of skills and capabilities are involved with both resources and both offer bottom-to-top training.

Tracking is another resource that is busy most of the year, with many Wednesday clinics, and is open to Type III members. Tracking Sergeant John Banuelos is always looking for enthusiastic Tracking Academy graduates to help lay tracks for these clinics. The Academy is held each year in the summer (dates tentatively June 17, 18, 19 – continue to check the calendar), but on occasion the Tracking sergeant will conduct mini-clinics on tracking skills and search tactics for those who have not yet attended the Tracking Academy.

Although it’s a rare team member who will have the opportunity to train his/her own dog for the Canine Resource, all team members are welcome to participate in that training. Every week, twice a week, the canines train and on each of those occasions, the trainers seek hiders. The reward for this contribution may be a big warm slobbery kiss (no, not from the trainers), as well as the good feeling of having helped to develop excellent four-legged team members.

Within each resource there is always a need for hands-on help with the logistics of that resource and in ideas for training and sometimes administrative help. Check with any staff person and there is probably some way you may be able to help. Raised hands are seldom turned down!

A truly important way to get involved is in helping with trainings. The full-team trainings are the primary way team members are trained to core skills and in support of that mission, the Training Division is actively recruiting to build out its team. Ways to help could be anything from driving a van the day of the event, to coming up with suggestions and ideas for implementation of various trainings, to planning and presenting a mock search – the range is wide, as is the need. Training Division meetings are held on the first Monday evening of each month (which is often, but not always, the Monday prior to the training). Check the calendar and just show up. You can observe without commitment until you get comfortable. To jump in now, simply contact training@contracostasar.org. Training Lieutentant Andy Comly is willing to redirect those willing to help in other divisions, as well.

Speaking of training … proctoring is an excellent way to support the team and beef up your skills at the same time. EMR and Academy proctoring are key to the success of the program. Proctors are also used during each month’s training events and are vital to making the training program work. If you don’t understand what it means to be a proctor, check out the Callout article on proctoring from April 2011.

The Logistics group is always looking for more hands-on helpers, as well. Both skilled and unskilled labor are welcome for the frequent “rehabbing” that needs to be done – getting equipment and supplies ready for the next search, training or medical event and cleaning up from same. Lifting, moving and transporting supplies and equipment is one side of it, but those who simply like to tidy up and organize can also be put to good use.

The logistics of the Medical side of the house also could use help. After every medical event or training, there are many re-organizational tasks that are necessary. And before every medical mission there is a lot of prep work to do. During the EMR class, the need for help is weekly – Mondays and every other week Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well. In matters of communications, there are, again, a variety of ways to get involved.

The Comms Group works in developing ways to improve communications for searches and training. Bring your ideas and skills to that table if you have them or just come and learn how things work.

The IT folk work hard to improve methods for myriad search and training tasks, from printing maps to downloading GPS tracks to uploading GPS tracks. If you have a gift for or interest in technology, check in with them.

The New Members crew welcomes help from February through the fall with a number of activities and tasks. Attending orientations (the first Thursday of each month through June) and lending support there is most appreciated. Other needs include help with paperwork; for uniform sizing and dissemination; and with meeting, greeting and helping to shepherd new Academy students at trainings prior to the Academy when students are observing or role-playing.

There are public relations events throughout the year that can use people who enjoy conversing with anyone who comes to the table to learn about CoCoSAR. Again, ideas for improving the process are always needed and invited. The team is constantly on the lookout for ways to bring in money to help build programs and purchase equipment.

Fundraising is key to that, whether through grant writing, corporate-giving programs or other fundraising events. The Finance group welcomes all comers who can offer expertise or a simple willingness to help.

The website is about to be reworked and there will definitely be a need for help and suggestions as it undergoes some upgrading. And the Callout staff is always (always!) seeking more people to write articles or help in other ways. If you can’t write, perhaps you are a great photographer and can supply much-needed photos for stories. Or maybe you are adept at WordPress and can help in that way.

And let’s not forget the social side. If you are someone who enjoys people, you can use your skills for SAR Social events. At present, the team has focused on an annual picnic and holiday party, but the options are open for more ideas for those willing to take the lead.

The list goes on and on, but hopefully, you get the drift. Searches or no searches, the team takes a village to run. Every team member who steps up and adds his/her time and energy to any and all tasks helps keep the team the strong unit that it is. Touch base with your coach or take a look at the current organizational chart on the website documents page and find the staff member connected to the area that interests you; you’ll find a way to add your talents to the mix. Want to get involved? All you have to do is ask ….

CoCoSAR Picture Of The Day

photo

CoCoSAR team member Brad Schimek holds out a radio direction finder as fellow team members (John Sutter, Cameron Soo, Don Kavanaugh, Paul Healy and Kerrie Tseung) take a compass bearing on its position. The device is used as part of the team's ELT (electronic location transmitter) training. The ELT is designed to find downed aircraft and is one of the skills CoCoSAR's mountain rescue group must demonstrate as part of their annual MRA (Mountain Rescue Association) Wilderness Search Tactics recertification. (Photo Credit: Natalie Zensius)

Closure – The Gene Penaflor Tale

By John Banuelos
 
The year 2013 has certainly has been one of the more challenging years for CoCoSAR missions. In recent months, CoCoSAR has sought subjects in remote locations, subjects who were either found deceased or not found at all. For a searcher, any searcher, this is not the desired result. We all live for the words “found in good health.” But even just the word “found,” which can be code for “found deceased,” provides closure for families.
 
Closure is important for all – the best case obviously being “found in good health.” But even just “found” allows a family and friends to address their goodbyes to the spirit of a loved one. As searchers, we return to our regular lives knowing we have provided some form of comfort either way by answering the question, “Where is our loved one?”
 
penaflor aGene Penaflor disappeared while hunting on Hull Mountain. For days local SAR teams worked the high-probability areas, seeking to find this experienced, 72-year-old hunter. SAR and Sheriff resources deployed in a multi-day search effort.  Everyone wanted him found as the cold and impending bad weather of the year was coming, but nobody wanted him found more than his family and his longtime hunting partner. Hope of success filled the air over many days.
 
Like all the SAR members on Hull Mountain, Gene’s family and friends stayed the long days and cold nights on the mountain. They prayed for good news as SAR members returned from assigned searches. They helped as best they could in determining where their beloved family member and friend might have strayed.
 
Eventually a search must be called when the search team feels it has done its best. In this case, the decision to stop carried a great burden for the search manager and every searcher: The family had stood watch at the edge of the operation center waiting for news, any news. How do you tell people who love the subject that volunteer resources need to return home, high-probability areas have been covered multiple times, and the impending poor weather may prevent a safe continuation of effort? In truth there is no easy way to do this.
 
We all hoped for good news before the final decision needed to be made. We quietly talked among ourselves about staying on despite the impending weather. Yet, the hour came when SAR members and family stood together for that final talk. The families and friends understood the choices and decisions that had been made, they thanked everyone for their efforts, and then the tears came. There was to be no closure for them on that day.
 
Seeing the tears of a family was a new experience for me, but hearing the sobs of sadness from his longtime hunting partner resonated even deeper. A searcher asks him/herself many questions. Can I stay and help this family? Did I search hard enough? What more can I do? One does not wish to leave with the memory of these quiet tears and heavy sobs.
 
gene penaflorStill in the end, we searchers left, pondering on the long drive home, “Did I do enough?” Even as regular life resumed, the memory of those tears and that question continued to haunt us.
 
Lack of closure is the worst of all situations for all involved; no one is untouched.
 
But for Gene Penaflor the miracle of miracles occurred. For 19 days he survived, lost and injured in a remote canyon. He was found by hunters in the area, and then recovered by SAR and Sheriff resources. He was returned to the smiles and happy tears of reunion with family and friends.
 
Closure was, after all, granted. And relief was granted to all who left amidst the sad tears of that day, for Gene had been “found in good health.”
 
Addendum:
The following was written for another who was found deceased. It is my source of courage for searches to come. I call it my SAR prayer.
 
My uniform lies on the chair. My gear is next to it. My silent prayer continues, “May no one be lost or in silent distress shrouded by the darkness. But should they be, we will go out to search for them until found.”