Urban Shield (October Team Training Recap)

By Randy Franks

P1010246The October full team training was a unique three-day opportunity for CoCoSAR to demonstrate its “people power,” supporting the 2013 Urban Shield Exercise.
 
As part of the region-wide event, the Contra Costa Sheriff and Coroner hosted a mass-fatality scenario simulating a passenger rail crash. The scenario, involving 150 dead and 250 injured, was designed to overwhelm local and regional capabilities and require federal assistance.
 
CoCoSAR team members assisted with site set-up on Friday, October 25, coordinated logistics and staffed the Incident Command Post during the exercise on Saturday, and assisted with break-down and clean up on Sunday.
 
Urban Shield was also chance to review the team’s role as a responding agency for the Contra Costa Operational Area All-Hazards Mass Fatality Plan. According to the plan, the team would conduct search missions related to the mass fatality event. This could include canine resources searching for remains and cadavers, or ground teams searching for missing subjects.
 
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A Family Support Center was deployed and staffed by the American Red Cross, CoCo Health Services and Emergency Medical Services, and CoCo Employment & Human Services. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s disaster mortuary (DMORT) team was deployed as part of the federal assistance.
 
Alameda County Sheriff, San Mateo Sheriff, San Mateo Coroner, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Medical Examiner and Marin Coroner participated in the scenario.

The CoCoSAR 100

By John Banuelos
 
Type III Academy 2013One of the chief assets of CoCoSAR is its size. We number at 200-plus members at any given time. This number of members allows us to send out a solid count of searchers at any one time to provide robust assistance, both in and out of couty. And if the first callout doesn’t bring enough searchers, the number will swell with the second callout.
 
However, for the Academy staff ,the power of 200 is magnified by the commitment of its members to “pay it forward” to a new generation of Academy students.  In 2012, over 100 members participated with the Class of 2012 and its 40 candidates.  In 2013, over 100 again participated with the Class of 2013 and its 31 candidates. It is a demonstration, in my mind, of our team’s enthusiasm to help. It is volunteers volunteering even more of their time to the development of the team.
 
Members helped as coaches, a resource that was repeatedly used by 2013 candidates. Coaches represented the kind and helpful face of CoCoSAR.
 
Type II Hike 2013Other members repeatedly served as instructors and proctors to help students understand navigation, first aid, radio communication and other miscellaneous SAR skills during many lecture portions of the academies. Many gave up weekends to assist in with the Type 3 USAR Type 4 skills Saturday, the navigation practical Sunday followed by the Type 2 low-angle rigging Sunday and the full weekend of fun known as UNO.
 
At times the proctors and team members exceeded the students themselves;
Orientation  - 41 members
Type 3 hike – 41 members
Type 2 Hike – 49 members
UNO – 57 members
 
UNO 2013USAR, MRG, Bike Team, and Tracking contributed resource members or introduced the skills of the resource to the academies.  Leaders of Search Management and Hasty were contributors to the academies and UNO.
 
No academy can progress without the contribution of team members.  To each and every one of you, the Academy staff wishes to say, “ Thank you!” I hope to see all of you at the academies of 2014.
 
And for those members who have just graduated, remember the gift you were given by the generations that came before you. Consider paying it forward in 2014.

Class of 2013 Profiles

Anderson Nick-SNICK ANDERSON

I am a junior at Acalanes High School. I enjoy spending time with friends, hunting, fishing, hiking, biking and wrestling for Acalanes. I am a co-president for the Model UN Club and a member of the politics club at school. I hope to join the Navy and my life goal is to become a Navy SEAL.

CHRIS BISCHOFFBischoff Christopher-S

I've been living in California for the past nine years and have really come to love it. I’m currently a senior in high school and will be graduating this January. I can’t wait! After high school I hope to get an EMT certification. My hobbies are rock climbing, skiing and hiking. My real passion is downhill mountain biking. I love flying down mountains as fast as I can and pushing my limits on a bike. When there’s snow around, I don’t mind doing that on skis either. Recently SAR functions have become a favorite of mine as well. I look forward to getting to know and work with all of you in the coming years.

Dudley Ethan-SETHAN DUDLEY

I am 17 years old and go to Northgate High School. I want to attend the US Air Force Academy and become a helicopter pilot for combat search and rescue. When I learned about CoCoSAR, I immediately looked into how to join. SAR has been awesome so far and is far better than Boy Scouts. I am looking forward to my first callout.

CYNTHIA FIELDField Cynthia-S

Serendipity is defined as “A happy accident … the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it … .” After I attended the orientation specifically to involve my son, someone encouraged me to fill out an application. I had no idea what I was in for. So, radically and quickly SAR changed my outlook and approach to many things. I started learning many new skills; I started moving fast; looking back and ahead; and learning from embarrassing mistakes. I learned how to use my bag, my equipment and working on being on time, looking professional and mentally engaged in scenarios. I started to really appreciate the strengths, personalities and backgrounds of my fellow academy students, my academy sergeant, proctors and coaches for their talents and their expertise in the material they presented. I can’t believe so much has happened in so little time and I have met the best of the best people I will ever meet. Rarely have I seen such dedication to the heart of mission with steadfastness and professionalism. I am honored be a member of SAR and I am grateful that SAR found me!

Garcia Linda-SLINDA GARCIA

Though I’m a lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, my day job, also known as “the job I do for money,” is in Daly City (yes, the commute is, ummm, challenging.)

However, Contra Costa is my home and giving back to the community here has been a part of my life for at least the last 30 years. I was a Camp Fire Boys and Girls leader for 17 of those years and community service (as well as outdoor skills) is a huge part of that program.

When my own kids grew up and moved away – one to New Zealand and the other to the “Only Rational City in Texas” (aka, Austin) – I followed a lifelong interest in EMS and picked up my EMT certification. I have now spent many years doing volunteer medical support at weekend events and teaching EMT skills, WFR, and CPR for various other programs during the evenings. When I heard about CoCoSAR from a friend and current CoCoSAR member, it sounded like an organization where I could give back to my community in a structured and ongoing way that combined both my love of the outdoors and my interest in EMS.

With the support of my long-suffering husband of 35 years, I decided to apply to be a member the team. So far, my experience in CoCoSAR has been wonderfully positive. The academy was well-run, the training excellent, and now I’m just looking forward to getting that first all-team callout so I can put some of it to good use.

Hunter Autumn-SAUTUMN HUNTER

I've lived all over the northern half of California, but I'm now conveniently located less than two minutes from OES, where I live with my boyfriend and co-conspirator Matt. I'm hilariously upbeat and cheerful, and I also think I'm pretty funny, which is bad because I have about three jokes! I'm a huge nerd, and in my spare time, I play a lot of D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). Despite my best efforts, I don't know how to rock climb, and I've never been backpacking – two things I hope to learn at some point in the next year.

SHAWN INKSInks Shawn-S

My path towards search and rescue started several years ago after turning 40, when I made a commitment to add something to my life that would push me both mentally and physically. Added to this was a strong desire to feel more connected to my community, and hopefully build some relationships with local people.

I have spent the past 20 years working in the pharmaceutical industry, getting up before dawn and heading off to Alameda and Solano counties, which left me somewhat out of touch with the community around me. SAR seemed like a perfect way to fill these needs, while also allowing me to spend time in the great outdoors, another important part of my life.

I live in Bay Point with my wife Gina, a P.E. teacher for the Mt. Diablo School District, and our 9-year-old son Jared. I also have a 19-year-old son who is working and going to college in the Sacramento area.

Murray Scott-SSCOTT MURRAY

After recovering from the most excellent adventure known as UNO, I am very happy and proud to have become a conditional member of the Type 2 team. I decided to become a member of CoCo SAR as a result of a tragedy that happened to a close friend of my family and am very excited about honing the skills that I have been taught over the past few months to try to help others that have gone missing.

I live in Danville with my wife, dog and two cats (wreck and havoc) and fortunately get to see my three sons regularly despite the fact that they have all flown the nest (although one is an Oregon Duck and I suspect he will be returning to the nest for a while come graduation next June).

I anxiously await my first callout and have my 24-hour pack ready to go when that occurs. Until then I will continue to work representing physicians and hospitals in professional liability actions, which I am trying to do on a less-than-full-time basis so that I will not miss an opportunity to help in any search in which I am currently qualified to assist. I look forward to working with and learning from all of my new SAR team members in the future and to become a valuable contributor to this organization.

Neidhard Richard-SRICHARD NEIDHARDT

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I spent my boyhood in the '50s fishing (we lived on a lake), hunting, and with an all-consuming interest in all things that crawled, swam and flew. I still have those interests.

In 1966, after attending the University of South Carolina, I served in the US Army for three years. My last duty station was at Ft. Carson, CO, where I developed a passion for rock climbing and mountaineering. In 1972 I bought a piece of land in the Ozark Mountains of north central Arkansas. I moved there in 1973 with my pregnant wife and year-old daughter. I built an oak log cabin with hand tools, and lived in it through the '70s with an assortment of chickens, goats, pigs, mules and other critters. Since I had no one to rock climb with, and the Ozarks is karst country, riddled with caves, I naturally became a hard-core caver.

We moved to California in 1986 (with three daughters now), where I continued my career in construction. After 40 years as an estimator/construction manager, I retired in 2008. I've been a volunteer (reptile team) at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum since 2004. Since 2010 I've been a volunteer on the condor crew at Pinnacles National Park, and a member of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory telemetry team for three years. And since all of that didn't keep busy enough, I joined CoCoSAR, and graduated from the 2013 Academy. I'm excited about it, and look forward to serving with you all.

Piercy Dana-SDANA PIERCY

Two years ago I was backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, when I and two other girls got lost. We spent the next 12 hours scared, cold, hungry, thirsty and mosquito-bitten. At about 1 a.m., a search and rescue team found us.

I am so grateful to the individuals who were prepared to spend the entire night searching for us, and I will forever be in their debt. By joining Contra Costa Search and Rescue, I hope to help other families the same way that SAR helped mine.

I'm a junior at Acalanes High School, and I love my life. I know so many awesome people, and I am given so many great opportunities. I love backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, diving and shopping. I also enjoy photography and hanging out with my friends.

I'm so excited to be a part of SAR, and I can't wait to meet more of the team!

GUS RODRIGUEZRodriguez Gustavo-S

I believe I was put on this earth to go out there and save that one person that no one else on this world could save and bring home. I am Colombian and a U.S. citizen since 2012, engaged to a beautiful Colombian woman named Nego and also have a beautiful stepdaughter Pitufis. One good day I found Jim Gay, an emergency room nurse at Kaiser, who talked to me about search and rescue and told me stories of missing people. I said “I need to have one of those!”

At that that time I was about 400 pounds and decided make some changes in my life. I lost 200 pounds and decided to enter the CoCoSAR Academy and now I'm an active member of the exquisite Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, Type 3. Currently I 'm in technical study to be surgical tech and I work as a security specialist in the emergency department. I have lived in Pleasant Hill since 2008 and joined the San Francisco Giants as greeter for the clubhouses.

Sherdil Edris-SEDRIS SHERDIL

I’m a 16-year-old junior at San Ramon Valley High. I’ve lived in Danville for my entire life. I currently volunteer for John Muir Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and the American Red Cross. I enjoy volunteering, hiking, and medicine so I, along with a few friends, decided to join SAR.

I want to go to Stanford, UCSB, or UCSD to study pre-med or biology and aspire to become an ER physician or a cardiac surgeon after I graduate college.

CAMERON SOOSoo Cameron-S

My first experiences with SAR started in Sacramento County while I was going to CSU, Sacramento for my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. With previous outdoor knowledge as an Eagle Scout, I joined Sacramento Search and Rescue with the hopes of getting involved in the community and applying my outdoor knowledge to the field. Hundreds of callouts, trainings, and two UNOs later, I left the field to go to the Sacramento Police Academy. After moving back to the Bay Area, I decided to head back to school to pursue a master’s degree. I am very excited at the opportunity of returning to the search and rescue community, to improve my outdoor skills and pass on my previous experiences and knowledge to the next generation of CoCoSAR members.

Sutter John-SJOHN SUTTER

I’m originally from Marin, although I also grew up in several Asian countries. I graduated from UC Davis and the University of Washington, with degrees in international studies. I then spent 23 years in Alexandria, VA, with the Defense Intelligence Agency. A ground-pounder since age 17, I’m about to retire from the Army Reserves after 33 years, which included active duty for eight of the past 10 years and multiple deployments.

My wife, Susan (an avid hiker), and I moved to San Ramon one year ago. We have a daughter (17) and a son (15). My hobbies include travelling, a love of baseball, and boring people with my war stories. CoCoSAR’s activities fit nicely with my Army training, desire to serve the community and love of the outdoors. I’m really looking forward to improving my medical skills and rope work, many of the other training opportunities, and the baked goods Wilma mentioned during the introductory meeting.

Volga Michelle-SMICHELLE VOLGA

I am currently a sophomore at Acalanes High School. This is going to be my second year running varsity track and field. I have been taking Tae Kwon Do since first grade. I got my first-degree black belt in fourth grade, have been teaching it since I got my second degree in sixth grade, then I got my third degree in ninth grade and am currently working on my fourth degree.

During the summer before seventh grade, someone attempted to kidnap me near the Berkeley Marina. I was so grateful to the officers and EMTs who responded so quickly, and I knew that I needed to give back, I just wasn't sure how. So at Stanley Middle School I became very involved in the volunteer club, Opportunity Knocks, as well as the leadership class there. However, neither of those fulfilled my need to give back. So as soon as I was old enough, I joined the Sheriff Cadets program. The details (which most of you SAR members may recognize me from) are always a blast and teach me so much. The Cadet Post gives me opportunities to try things I never thought I would be able to try and I get to meet so many amazing people.

In the midst of many sergeants, lieutenants, and captains, I met Rick Kovar, who told me about search and rescue. While reading more about SAR, I fell in love with what SAR members do, both individually and as a team. I knew I needed to be a part of this amazing team, and I am so blessed to be given this opportunity.

White Harold-SHOWARD WHITE

I grew up in Martinez, graduated from Alhambra High and planned a career with the CHP. Well, as they say, my plans changed and I went to work for EBMUD and recently retired from there after 34 years of blissful employment.

My wife Debbie and I have been married for 29 years. We have two sons – Paden, 20, and Dylan, 19. I have been a lifelong Giants/49ers fan. I enjoyed playing bocce for many years. I love to camp, fish and hunt. Since retiring, I finally got my chance at joining search and rescue and enjoy learning new things with a great group of people. Time to enjoy the next chapter of my life!

My Type 3 and 2 Academy Experience

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 11.37.52 AM
 
By Randy Franks
 
Have you ever ridden Space Mountain … you know, the roller coaster at Disneyland? The one in total darkness where you can’t tell what’s next – maybe a sharp left turn or a precipitous drop? Then afterwards you’re a bit sore but unquestionably ready to jump back in line and do it all over again?
 
If you've never been on that ride, all I can say is: it’s exactly like CoCoSAR academy training.
 
The practical training – USAR at the old juvenile hall, land navigation at Briones, and the simulated search night – are so well-designed, the men and women leading them so capable, and the host of supporting proctors so knowledgeable and supportive, that it really is a perfect roller coaster.
 
There are moments that feel dangerous (a door-knock exercise that interrupts a fierce domestic argument), or risky (nighttime hasty search along narrow trails), but the setting is ultimately safe and stable.
 
And the pace is at times fast, providing the immersive feel of a real event (searching and clearing a cell block as a team, or pretty much any time on comms); and at times slow, with measured moments debriefing as a group, as a smaller team, or learning one-on-one (tying knots or manually plotting and reading UTMs).
 
I’m surprised to find myself making this analogy, because I came to Search and Rescue with a couple of decades of experience in backpacking, hiking cross-country and standing atop high Sierra peaks, with well-maintained first-aid credentials, too.
 
But when applied to SAR, all that has turned out to be like learning about roller coasters by watching YouTube.
 
(Academy Students relax with team proctors after successfully completing CoCoSAR's UNO [unexpected night out] training event. Photo credit: Ed Molascon.)

Mount Diablo Challenge Medical Detail Recap

Mount Diablo Challenge

On October 6th, 2013, CoCoSAR provided medical support for the Mount Diablo Challenge. This was the annual bike ride up Mt. Diablo, an 11.2 mile timed bike ride, starting at Athenian School in Danville and climbing up Southgate Road 3,249 feet to the summit of Mount Diablo. Approximately 1,000 cycling enthusiasts competed. 

More than 25 CoCoSAR team members staffed 6 medical stations located on Mt Diablo.

A CoCoSAR Training We Couldn’t Pass Up

On the weekend of October 26th Urban Shield 2013 will be taking place across the Bay Area. Urban Shield is a comprehensive full-scale, regional preparedness exercise. It encompasses real world scenarios to assess the Bay Area Region‘s response capabilities related to multi-discipline planning, policies, procedures, organization, equipment and training. Urban Shield tests regional integrated systems for prevention, protection, response and recovery in our high-threat, high-density urban area.

This year Contra Costa is the lead participant under the Emergency Management Area Command in Urban Shield.  As such, we will be the lead Emergency Operations Center and Coroner responding to a mass fatality incident—a simulated train collision in Martinez. This will be a multi-County Emergency Operations Center functional exercise in the morning with a Portable Field Morgue and Mock Family Assistance Center Demonstration in the afternoon. 

The afternoon Demonstration will simulate a full activation of a Disaster Mortuary Operations response Team (DMORT), including

  • temporary field morgue facilities
  • victim identification & processing
  • forensic dental pathology
  • forensic anthropology methods
  • DNA processing
  • radiology
  • disposition of remains

We expect up to 200 representatives from across the Bay Area and California Coroner’s Offices, fire, law and public health to attend the Portable Morgue & Family Assistance Center Demonstration.

While this is outside of the normal scope of the SAR mission, if we were to experience a large scale incident of this nature, there is a good chance the SAR Team would be involved in one way or another.

Due to the unique opportunity to work directly with our regional, state and out-of-state partners, CoCoSAR will be integrating our monthly full team training resources into this regional exercise. Supporting this exercise will give us the opportunity to get hands on experience setting up large-scale, federal disaster response assets, observe–and possibly participate in–regional mutual aid EOC coordination, familiarize ourselves with portable field morgue resources, as well as develop relationships with our regional and out-of-state partners.

CoCoSAR Team members can sign up at http://contracostasar.org/Detail/Search/urban.

Mission Summary: June 2013

  • 6/9/2013 – Bike to Bridges. There were four CoCoSAR bikes involved. There was some confusion about how much of the ride was to be covered (of the 25 miles) and one member of the group had difficulty about halfway through the ride. It was suggested that there should be a policy to state that riders only have a partial area to cover.
     
  • 6/24/13 – A hiker (35 years old) called his family as it was getting dark and said he was lost on Mt. Tamalpais. Shortly after that, his phone battery died. Marin searched in the night and called for mutual aid first thing in the morning. CoCoSAR was en route when the hiker self-rescued. Read team member John Hubinger's write-up of this callout.
     
  • 6/28/13 – Sheriff’s Office SERT competition. Twenty SAR members attended the SERT competition and were tasked with crowd control rather than medical. There was no ambulance standing by, however, and there were two injuries and five heat-related issues. 

Additional Type 2 Hikes Available

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The following Type 2 qualifying hike opportunities have been added to the CoCoSAR team calendar. Please sign up on the website when the event is posted. Team members are encouraged to participate as proctors and for conditioning and encouragement. Be a good teammate!

The requirement is to complete the specified 5-mile course in no more than 2.5 hours and carrying a 20-pound pack. Course map and GPS tracks are on the CoCoSAR website in the documents section. Maps will not be provided at the site.

Team uniforms are not required. Do not bring non-SAR canines; if your canine is not on the SAR Canine Resource, do not bring him/her.

The Type 2 hike location is at the Shell Ridge (WCOS) trailhead at Marshall Drive by Indian Valley Elementary School in Walnut Creek. Google Map 500 Marshal Drive for directions.

  • Monday, Aug. 26 – 1800 hours sign-in and weigh-in, 1815 hours timed start
  • Sunday, Sept. 15 – 0800 hours sign-in and weigh-in, 0815 hours timed start
  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 - 1800 hours. This is the first class of the Type 2 Academy. Uniforms (full team/proctor) are required. All team members are encouraged to participate in order to support the new Type 2 Academy team members.

There will be one more Type 2 hike qualifying opportunity in calendar year 2013.

Initial CoCoSAR Full Team Survey Results

Over 100 team members took the survey and gave us valuable insight into what we as a team are doing right and where the team might have some opportunities to improve. Overall, 92 percent of team members are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our team.

Below are a few more highlights.

  • 97 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our overall team performance.
  • 91 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our search preparedness.
  • 96 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our monthly full-team trainings.
  • 74 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our ability to conduct an after-action review.
  • 95 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our ability to conduct in-county searches.
  • 91 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied with our ability to conduct out-of-county searches.
  • 92 percent agree or strongly agree the expectations of a CoCoSAR team member have been clearly explained.
  • 63 percent agree or strongly agree they receive the proper supervision and feedback on their SAR performance.
  • 94 percent agree or strongly agree they have received the proper training to meet the expectations of our SAR duties.
  • 78 percent agree or strongly agree there is opportunity on the SAR team for advancement.

Over the next several weeks, the Command Staff will conduct a full analysis of the survey results. We'll share the information with the full team in September.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. Your feedback is extremely valuable and a critical component to the success of the team.