Summer Is Here


By Nancy Hart

Our summer Search and Rescue missions can bring us into some long hot days. It's important to know the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses for ourselves, for our subjects, and for our teammates. I know this well now after my experience at this year's County Fair. It was in the upper 90s on Friday and a whopping 105 degrees on Saturday. Even with sunscreen, I was sunburned on Friday. My body's cooling system just couldn't keep up on Saturday with the burn and the even higher temperatures. Although I drank plenty of water and wore sunscreen, I still succumbed to heat exhaustion by late Saturday. And like the subject in Diane Blue's scenario at last month's full team training, I tried to keep going!  Thanks to a teammate who kept insisting I had too much sun, I finally signed out and spent the next two days nursing a headache and staying indoors. Be safe out there!

Heat Illnesses To Be On The Watch For

Heat edema (and it starts)
Heat causes blood vessels to dilate (open up) and as the body is starting to have trouble with using salt to sweat out, fluid will pool in the hands and legs. Ever get those puffy fingers when running or hiking?

Heat exhaustion (milder initial stage)
Move into an air-conditioned environment and don’t go back out into the sun for at least a day or two or the condition will return and possibly be worse!
• profusely sweating
• rapid weak pulse
• rapid breathing (just can’t “catch your breath”)
• blood pressure drops when standing up (you feel dizzy)
• fatigue (you might feel a little “out of it” and “tired”)
• reddened face changes to -> pale, cool, and moist
• headache
• muscle cramping
• nausea (sometimes vomiting)

Heat stroke (next stage, can be deadly!!)
Immediately get out of the sun, in an air-conditioned room preferably, and sponge cool water on the skin. Call for an ambulance to the emergency room.
• sweating has stopped!! – skin is dry, red and hot (body’s sweating mechanism has failed)
• body temperature is up over 101 degrees F
• confusion (Can your teammate or subject remember where they are? What the plans were for the day? What day of the week it is? Their name or your name?)
• throbbing headache and nausea
• severe cramps (as if muscles are encased in cement and you can’t move)
• pulse is fast, breathing rapid, blood pressure low

CDC Facts on Heat Illness, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke

This Is What I’m Hearing

When I took on the role of Ombudsman for the team, I heard everything from, “You’re going to get an earful!” to “No one ever says much.” I found just the opposite – of both. Whether through an anonymous email, a private phone call or a casual conversation at a training, I heard team members offering thoughtful observations, asking insightful questions, extending praise and challenging the status quo with the goal of making us an overall better team.

A few themes came out of all the feedback: Team members want to have a better understanding of what the organization’s staff is doing (communication); team members want to know the rules of the road (standard operating procedures); and, team members want to consistently strengthen the team’s expertise and experience (proficiency). These themes fit very well with the feedback team members offered through the team survey conducted in the spring of 2011. At that time, team members offered 83 suggestions through the comments section. The command staff reviewed each one and 41 were accepted and put into motion. Another 27 were considered and put into the “maybe” category for further consideration, and 16 suggestions were rejected for various reasons. I was pleasantly surprised by the data. I had no idea what had been done with the survey results and was happy to see that so much of the information was put into action. That’s my goal as Ombudsman—gathering feedback from team members and putting good ideas into action with the Command Staff.

The command staff just held its annual strategic planning session in September for the coming year. We spent six hours one Saturday, as well as another evening meeting, discussing everything from the primary mission focus for 2013 to reviewing the organization’s staffing to combing through the 2013 budget line by line to ensure every dollar is spent wisely. As Ombudsman, I took the opportunity to make sure that all the valuable feedback I have heard from team members over the last six months – the insightful observations and the challenging questions – were a part of the discussion. Here are a few of the ways your feedback shaped the Command Staff’s strategic plan for 2013:

• Team meetings will be reorganized to provide more relevant and valuable information to team members, including an ongoing review of strategic projects.
• A condensed team meeting, held at the beginning of our monthly full-team training, will be reintroduced.
• Monthly Command Staff highlights will be posted to the team website and communicated to the team at large – probably through the Callout or team website.
• A Feedback Committee will be formed to collect, review, and present feedback to Bob Nelson, the Office of the Sheriff’s organizational consultant.
• And, we will conduct another team member survey in the spring.

Standard Operating Procedures
The started but stalled SOP project will be dusted off and re-invigorated with a goal of posting high-level SOPs for key business areas within the team.

We cannot succeed in our core mission if we do not have the core skills and this is reflected in the Command Staff’s attention to our proficiency. A large portion of the strategic planning session was dedicated to identifying and prioritizing the key objectives for 2013 – all related to our team’s proficiency in searching. The five objectives for 2013 will be 1) search management; 2) medical; 3) USAR integration (disaster response) 4) snow and ice; and 5) processes and systems.

Across the board, the staff is cataloging our team’s skillsets. CoSoSAR has developed an extensive database for all team member’s certifications and fulfillment of type-specific requirements. In the coming year, the staff hope to transition the manual database to an integrated, Office of the Sheriff-supported database for all volunteer departments. This transition will allow the command staff to continue to ensure that all team members have the expertise and physical training to perform our core mission.

I think you’ll agree that there are many areas in which you had direct influence on the priorities set for the coming year. Thank you for sharing your suggestions with me, and giving the Command Staff the opportunity to know what you are thinking. While we will never be able to accommodate every suggestion, many of the best ideas come from you. Please keep them coming. Email or call me anytime. My contact information is listed on our phone roster. If you prefer anonymity, feel free to use the feedback box within the members section of our website.

Advanced Land Nav — 2012

Once a year, CoCo SAR's Mountain Rescue Group (MRG) hosts the Type I Academy. Part of the curriculum includes an intensive course on map and compass skills. The culminating event is Advanced Land Navigation, where students are dropped off in a remote location, and have to navigate their way to a series of flags before arriving at a final rallying point. This full-day event involves an air-to-ground exercise with the Sheriff's Air Squadron, as well as an advanced ATV training opportunity.

Photos by Andy Csepely and Mark Wilfer

Keeping Up . . . In Just Minutes a Day

Find it hard to maintain all the skills you’ve learned since joining SAR? Days too busy to fit in any more studying (and maybe head too full to take anything else in)? Can’t seem to get organized enough to be search-ready? It may seem like there is too much to keep up with and no time to do it.

But there is something you can do, and it’s relatively painless. It’s just a matter of using those empty moments (and yes, we all have them) in a constructive way.

The following is a list of things you can do in the nooks and crannies of your days that will, believe it or not, help when it comes to a search. These are just suggestions to get the thoughts rolling; there are lots more things you can come up with once you get the idea.

While standing in line (at BART, the supermarket, the post office, etc.)…

  • Look around you and imagine a scenario in which a medical emergency happens to someone nearby. Walk through (only in your head, of course) what you might do. Talk yourself through the whole process. Imagine the head-to-toe exam and think of the SAMPLE questions. Look around to see what you might use if you had to improvise (for a splint, for instance, or bandage). If you have any concerns about an appropriate action, take note of it and remember to ask someone “in the know” later.
  • Practice your acronyms. If you have one of the handy cards with all the acronyms on it, pull it out and review.
  • Observe the people around you. Think how you might describe them. Think how others might describe them that could be confusing. Try glancing at someone quickly, and then looking away and trying to remember what they were wearing.

While watching TV…

  • Pull out your ropes and practice a few knots—over and over again. Learn a new one.
  • Clean out your backpack. Double-check supplies and make a list of what you need to replenish. Set aside items that need rehabbing.
  • Practice folding up the sleeves of your uniform shirt. (No, it’s not easy.)
  • Do some simple isometric exercises to strengthen your quads: If sitting on a chair or couch, press the heel of each foot, one at a time, down into the floor (you’ll feel your quads tighten), and hold for 5 seconds. Do 10 repetitions with each leg. You can do this at work, on BART, or anyplace else you're sitting down. Strong quads are essential for hiking.

When you’re on the computer without work to do, before visiting Facebook you might…

  • Go on the CoCoSAR photo website (SmugMug) and review the photos in the team-member gallery. Get to know each member's face and make a note of their name.
  • Read some of the material from the documents menu on the SAR website. Manyof the things you’ve learned so far can be reviewed there, especially for EMR and USAR.
  • Go back through The Callout newsletter archives and refresh your memory on different topics. You may find articles that didn’t apply at the time, but do now.

When you have 10 or 15 minutes around the house with a willing friend or family member…

  • Take their vital signs
  • Practice splinting
  • Practice wrapping a bandage
  • Do a head-to-toe exam
  • Do a practice interview, as though you are the first at a search site and they are the subject’s loved ones

And, of course, if you have an hour or two, take a hike!