My Type 3 and 2 Academy Experience

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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. 

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.

 

Mutual-Aid Callout, Marin County

By John Hubinger

On June 25, CoCoSAR received an early-morning mutual-aid call to a search in Marin County at the Bon Tempe Lake on the north side of Mt. Tamalpais. We would be looking for a 38-year-old male who had been hiking in the early evening when he realized, as it was getting dark, that he was lost and contacted his family just before his phone batteries died.

With the fog and rain, this was June’s coldest day so far.

Teams from Marin SAR had been called out at midnight and approximately 20 team members began searching around 1 a.m. The Mutual-aid callout happened circa 4 a.m.

Self-transporting, I arrived at the CP just after 8 and shortly thereafter we heard that the subject had been located in good condition.  At about 8:25, the subject arrived at CP mildly hypothermic, wet, tired, confused and wrapped in a blanket. The incident commander asked me to get the subject a cup of coffee, so when I brought it to him, I was able to listen to his debrief. 

Here is what he said:

After sending a picture text to his family, the subject became aware it was getting dark and he was still about three hours out. Trying to return to his car, he took a wrong turn and instead, headed in the opposite direction. At about 9:30 he called his family saying he was lost and soon after that his iPhone batteries died (so now he had no communication, map or light). He walked another hour until the trail ended, then made the decision to stay put for the night, huddling by a tree and using his hoody for cover and shelter.

At first light, he started to retrace his path and eventually was able to find the right trail. Several teams came very close to him, both at night and that morning, but none saw him.

After his debrief by the IC commander, he was given a full medical by a team of paramedics and the SAR personnel were debriefed, thanked and dismissed.  

Lessons learned:

·       Many moderately experienced hikers go out for “day hikes” without proper clothing, food, water and navigational information.

·       It is not uncommon for hikers to rely too heavily on smart phones (or GPS), only to find they don’t get reception, they run out of batteries or that the phones are of limited value – in this case all of the above!

·       Remembering that a landmark such as a lake was on the “right side” going out and therefore now should be on the left side coming back, doesn’t help if the lake in question is a different lake and you have no map or position on a GPS device.

That last point became clear to me after the assignment was over because I chose to stay to explore and hike the unfamiliar area. I retraced the path of the subject (the path he outlined was fairly clear). About three hours into my hike/run it became quite clear where he might have been when he made that “I think I’m lost” phone call. The whole retrace took me about 6.5 hours (with GPS, water, charged phone, map and some gear – no pack, but more than I usually take trail running on my own). It was interesting to imagine myself in the boots of the lost hiker at the point where he spent a cold uncomfortable evening.

I-Team and K-Team Cultivation Extraction

By John Banuelos

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On an island, a solitary figure awaits the arrival of a support force. He waits in the darkness of a moonless night ready to direct small squads to their final objectives. He listens for the slightest sound of their approach. Some distance away three captains maneuver their sleek, fast boats through the maze of waterways, avoiding the dangerous shoals but moving as fast as possible with their precious cargo of elite squads.

The I-Team stands ready in their camouflage gear, with weapons primed, ready to be the first to step off. Their K-team of search and destroy specialists check and ready their equipment. With quiet nods to each other, members of the K-team signal to all they are ready.

On the stern of one fast boat stands a lone figure. He is former Airborne and a Vietnam veteran. He knows the dangers of this kind of mission, in waters such as these. He alone understand the reality …

And the reality is my daydream was interrupted by a large wave that came over the side onto me as I dozed on the deck of a Sheriff Office (SO) boat. Let’s rewind and start this tale again.

Investigations (I-Team) had once again requested the assistance of CoCoSAR members for the clearing of another marijuana field, an emerging skill set of the team. In this case, this cultivation had been grown on one of the delta’s many islands. This was a first for CoCoSAR.

Our departure was in the early morning (not on a moonless night) of Wednesday, June 5, from the docks of a marina. Three SO boats carried investigation team members who were dressed in their camouflage gear and vests and armed. Along with them was the “klean-up” (K-Team) squad of 18 volunteers armed with gardening tools. Some of us carried our own specialized set of tools honed just for these occasions (machete, anyone?). While we were no Seal Team Six assault force, we all went with the required enthusiasm to do the job and do it well.

Our inside man was the island manager. Upon our arrival onto his island, the leads of both teams went inside the manager’s home to evaluate intel and island maps. Based on the aerial photos, two teams were formed to complete a form of seek and destroy on different parts of the island. Plants were to be completely eradicated and all equipment removed from the island.

One squad went on foot to its appointed location, while a second squad crowded onto a truck and was transported to its. Both squads found their assigned field. Clean lines of growth, three to eight plants across, stretched for 100s of yards. All these lines of cultivation paralleled rows of trees that helped to hide these plants from view. Intermixed with these plants was an effective irrigation system.

Plants were removed and readied for destruction. Irrigation pipes were cut up and bundled for removal. While tools had been brought in to assist in this effort, it was found that these plants could easily be pulled out by hand. Within hours, both squads completed their assigned mission. Time was spent doing additional reconnaissance for other grows in other possible sections of the island. But, no additional grows were found. Our mission was done.

Upon our return we were all able to enjoy the simple pleasure of a cool day, with a warm sun on our faces and the pleasure of delta waters as we sped home. We were mission successful.

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(Photos: Mikel Kinser)

EMR In Action, ctd.

Team member Will McCammon had a recent medical experience:

I was on my way to a Sunday afternoon shift at the County Fair when I came upon a single-car accident on Highway 4. The car had flipped over and the lone occupant was lying on the side of the road surrounded by a small group of people.  As I didn’t see any first responders on scene, I pulled over to see if I could help. 

A big thank you goes to the EMR training staff for constantly stressing the basics because as I got to the subject, I had my gloves on, was asking if 9-1-1 had been called (it had) and was looking for mechanisms of injury (MOI). While the car was an obvious MOI, I wasn’t sure if the subject had been thrown from the car, had gotten out on his own, or was helped out by bystanders.  

The subject was groaning (ABCs – check) but wasn’t responsive to verbal commands (A&O = 0) and only responded to painful stimuli. Bystanders indicated that he only spoke Spanish and they had pulled him from the car. My first thought was C-spine issues and that he should have been left where he was.

As I was thinking this, an off-duty EMT arrived and asked if he could hold C-spine, which I had him do. A second off-duty EMT (who spoke Spanish) was right behind him and attempted to communicate with the subject (get him to stay conscious and stop moving).  During the few moments before the ambulance and fire personnel arrived on scene, we took vitals (high pulse and rapid respirations) and ascertained that he was injured both on his right side and pelvic area.  

As soon as fire and ambulance responders arrived, everything kicked into high gear. They grabbed C-spine and quickly moved into assessing the patient. Within one or two minutes, they were setting up the patient packaging gear and I found myself applying the skills we train on so often. The only variation with our training was the use of Velcro with the cheese blocks and not tape (I am a convert!) and the need to maintain one leg at a 90-degree angle on the board due to injuries.

Although I wasn‘t tracking our time, I believe the total packaging time was around five minutes. This says something about constant training! The subject was loaded into the ambulance and I was able to head off to the County Fair for the rest of my day.

Reflecting on my first medical experience taught me several valuable lessons:

·       Always be as prepared as possible by having BSI and basic equipment such as a CPR mask readily available – I was heading to the County Fair, so I was geared up.  I can’t count on that in a future event unless I plan for it.

·       A big thanks to the EMR training team and their training process – BSI, scene safety, calling for help, ABCs, etc. rapidly came to mind. What wasn’t so easy was when the process didn’t follow our standard scenarios (patient speaks English and is awake, etc.). I need to mentally rehearse and practice thinking outside the easy patient assessment routines and prep for when the process breaks down. This includes ascertaining available help and skills with bystanders. (I was fortunate an EMT was on-hand to hold C-spine.)

·       Practice, practice, practice – My day job does not provide me with any training in the medical arena, so it’s up to me to develop the skills to feel comfortable and prepared if and when the need arises.