Search and Rescue

We spent most of a Thursday reviewing map and compass skills as well as discussing in big broad strokes the search and rescue function primarily as it stands in the province of Ontario.  By 2:30 we were itching for a scenario.  We broke ourselves into search and rescue teams of three, a first aid team, a liaison, a radio person, and incident command.  We reviewed the map of our location, trying to pre-plan where we might run our “bastard” search and our hasty search if a call of a missing person were to come in.

As fate would have it, one of our instructors went “missing”.  Under the scenario, he was headed off to pick up Whisperlite stoves for the next day’s demonstrations and was expected back at the lodge about an hour prior.  No sign of him.  He did not appear to take his jacket with him nor did he have any gear on him.  We sent a small team out to check the most likely spots he could have been if he were not truly lost (i.e. the “bastard” search).  When that 20 minute search turned up nothing, we sent 6 teams out to comb specific areas on the map and had them radio back to base every 15-20 minutes.  30 minutes later we realized our boundaries were much further than we had thought.  We had our teams rendezvous at a meeting point and fan out over the remaining search area.  Our missing person had now been “missing” for an hour and a half.

Back at base, the radio person and I looked up from our map as an OPP officer walked in.  We directed him to our non-lost instructors.

OPP officer: “Are you looking for Joe Smith*?”

Instructors: “Yes, as part of a search and rescue exercise.”

One of our fearless leaders had unfortunately pocket dialed 9-1-1 while waiting for us to find him.  End of scenario.  We radioed for everyone to come back to base and asked them to shout to Joe as they walked that the scenario was over.  While we waited for the teams to return, we had the good fortune to be able to ask the OPP officer what would have happened if this were a real situation and we had not been able to find Joe.  He responded without hesitation that the canine unit would have been brought in immediately.

*I’ve changed his name.  “Joe” picked up his phone when the 9-1-1 dispatcher called back after the pocket dial and explained the situation.  We were fortunate that the OPP officer was as understanding as he was.

Up for discussion: Have you ever been involved in a search and rescue either as rescuer or rescuee? 

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