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Search Nov07

Search

I’ve trained many a young WFR and WEMT student who was interested in becoming involved with search and rescue. They’re captivated by the excitement and glory of it all. Little do they know, the challenging and dramatic technical rescue is rare, and often limited to very active SAR units, or our National Park Service rescue teams.

In three decades of SAR experience I’ve found search and rescue more often to be tedious and tiring , not exciting and invigorating. Even the helicopter rides often leave me more airsick than excited.

You may walk for days, as I did this past week, looking for clues and staying alert as you climb over terrain you would otherwise avoid, bash through the deadfall, fall in the icy stream and climb hill after hill, looking up and down, looking behind you and into holes in the ground, the river, the glacier.

You may work in the background and under florescent lights on a management team doing the essential tasks of sorting information, developing a search plan and organizing teams. Whatever your role, you need patience, stamina, focus and a dedication to the mission of finding the lost soul.

The first day is exciting. The second day still has a sense of anticipation. On the third long day in a row fatigue begins to be a factor. You think about the work piling up back at the office and your neglected family. By the fourth, fifth and sixth days you reach deeper to sustain your energy and hope.   

Even if you love walking in the woods, the urgency of a search takes the pleasure from the experience. We roll up our sleeves, or tighten our gaitors, and do the work.

It’s blue-collar work, done by people willing to dedicate their time and energy to help someone they may not even know. It’s work done by people who don’t need instant gratification, and who don’t presume they can change the channel or the Ipod whenever events are tiresome and monotonous. Thank goodness that when the need arises, dedicated people always seem to step forward.

 

Tod Schimelpfenig EMT, FAWM

Curriculum Director - WMI of NOLS

Nov 2007
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