So I was thinking about all the learning I've done since getting involved with SAR three years ago:
- Alternative navigation (things like using the stars, sun, and moon, pacing and reading terrain)
- Map and compass
- ATV operation
- Snowmobile and snowcat operation
- Rappelling and ascending
- Anchor systems
- Lowering and raising systems for technical rescue
- Patient packaging
- Backcountry medical skills (Wilderness First Responder)
- Mid-face pick-offs
- Rigging the litter for technical rescue
- Truck and trailer training
- Winch operation and safety
- Helicopter safety
- The National Incident Management System (NIMS training)
- Alzheimer's and Dementia Patient Search
There have been important details like learning to attach the wheel to the litter, how to properly secure the ATVs to the trailer, how to estimate probability of detection. And the list goes on. Heck, I think I've learned more in three years of SAR than I did in five years of college. At least, more practical, hands-on skills.
So what's the point of this post? Oh, just sharing my thoughts as I get back up to speed after a few months away and then continue to learn and practice. And I would say to any new or prospective SAR member, search and rescue skills aren't something you learn once and then use now and again when you go on a mission. You really need to put the time in to practice, both on your own and as a team, on an ongoing basis, even if there are no missions for a while. Otherwise, you could find yourself on a real mission not remembering how to perform some important skills and therefore becoming more of a hindrance than a help.
Our team requires each member to participate in certain General SAR skills trainings (i.e., GPS, map and compass, ATV operation, truck and trailer training, etc.) once every three years, but that's assuming we're practicing on our own and during missions in between. As far as our technical rescue team goes, we have to pass a basic skills test each year. What about your team (if you're on one)?