General Question

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Anyone have any experience serving on their local rescue squad?

Asked by ARE_you_kidding_me (7841 points ) March 19th, 2014

I’m seriously considering volunteering with the rescue squad. I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has had that experience, if they would recommend it and what to expect.

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27 Answers

GloPro's avatar

Do it. I find it very rewarding. Each locale is different, I’m sure, but volunteers are an essential part of being able to provide help to distressed hikers, bikers, climbers, campers, etc. My squad operates 100% on donations and consists of about 30 crew. We’re pretty small, so my crew is tight knit.
You don’t have to be in shape, either. If you can’t hike then you can be utilized at the Incident Command (IC). We find a use for everyone.
We also have specialty teams. I’m on the Technical Rope Rescue team, which is even more commitment because we have each other’s lives in our hands and must respect that. I’m also getting a pup on April 7th, which I will be training in Search. We also have horse teams, ATV/snowmobile teams, swift water, and mountaineering. Your specialized squads will be geared towards your location.

The downside, if there is one, is that it can be expensive. My squad is one of the busiest on the west coast (impressive, considering our small group size), so our donations are used to buy things like helmets, harnesses, etc. For the most part you are responsible for furnishing your own rescue pack, which is no big deal if you are regularly camping, hiking, climbing already.
There is commitment involved. The regular SAR squad meets once a month for 4 hours. The specialty teams, depending on intensity of training required and team building needed, meet more regularly. Ropes meets every week for 6 hours, and if you can’t commit to your team you cannot be on it. We train as a team because we rescue as a team, and ropes can be dangerous. The dog team meets bi weekly, but you are always working with your dog.

I will add that my region has been blessed with former military, volunteer firemen, and a lot of very outdoorsy, active people. Other squads I’ve seen can be a joke if they don’t have good people. I can see that being very frustrating. We take ourselves seriously and have saved lives. It isn’t something to take lightly.

Get a wilderness first aid course under your belt. Get CPR/AED certified as well.

Why are you thinking of joining? Do you have the time to make a commitment to your team and your community?

I’m happy to discuss it here, for sure, but feel free to PM me with specific questions, too.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I did it for 7 years – First Medic. It was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. There were a few things I wish I had not seen but overall it made a huge positive impact.
It taught me how to be a better person.

Some people only read about it; some people only watch it on TV; and some people do it.
Which do you prefer?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@GloPro I’m in great shape, hike & camp often and have been blessed with some free time. I more or less have had an epiphany that all I have accomplished and worked for has been for myself and has not added any meaning to my life at all.

@LuckyGuy That’s the type of response I was hoping to get.

GloPro's avatar

Most of my tone outs come between 2pm and 8pm. They typically take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.
You meet great people who are also looking to give without expecting anything in return.

Cruiser's avatar

I joined the MRC…Medical Reserve Corps 6 years ago and find the experience very rewarding. I joined them simply because there was no CERT groups in my area. I do not have any medical experience other than CPR and lifeguarding certification but they need lots of other people to assist in various other capacities. The part I found most interesting was doing disaster training drill where we would partner up with other groups like the Red Cross, Invent, IMERT Rescue Riders motorcycle rescue teams, and ARRA Amature Ham Radio operators who were critical to ensuring open line of communications between the teams. My boys and other kids from their Scout troops were often “victims” of various disaster scenarios and had tons of fun getting made up in often very gruesome injuries by the Invent Nurses complete with compound fractures and serious head wounds. I got some great pictures somewhere similar to the one on the Invent website link above.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@GloPro What is a “tone out”

@Cruiser Radio communications is my thing for sure. One reason I became a Ham was for emergency preparedness but there is very little of that going on in the ham radio community.

gailcalled's avatar

Several years ago,when I flipped a Ford Taurus wagon on some black ice and turtled the car, I was rescued by several of our local volunteer rescue/firefighter squads. I was hanging from the floor of the car from my seat belt with the air bag in my face; it was really nice to know many of the guys. They were wonderful. If I were 20 years younger, I’d love to voluneer. I give them money regularly.

gailcalled's avatar

edit: volunteer.I hate this touch pad.

Cruiser's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Contact your local CERT team or in my case I contacted my Counties Health Department and they were the ones who directed me to MRC group. And from there I would expect you might find a local group of HAM operators connected who are associated with emergency response. All our drills started with the HAM radio dudes broadcasting the emergency and then coordinating all the other responders to get going. It was fun watching them set up their portable radio antennae towers. They had impressively cool gear.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Cruiser I may do that but I’m fixated on the rescue squad. While ham radio is kind of dying there are still many things that make it interesting especially now that some of the technology has become more affordable.

GloPro's avatar

A ‘tone out’ is just the term for what you hear on your pager or radio when you are called for a rescue. It’s a loud beep. Also a ‘call out.’

Our SAR is managed through the Sheriff’s department. We represent that office and will partner with the volunteer and paid fire response teams.

Basic examples of calls are hiking in to assist an injured hiker, including hiking them out in a litter (carry out), assisting the fire dept. in evacuations if needed, locating lost hikers, body recovery (avalanche, swift water, cliff accidents, the occasional suicide in the woods), rescuing people or pets that have gotten ‘cliffed out’, avalanche rescue, and any number of random things.

You can be on specialty teams, be a ground pounder (hiker), or be an Incident Command. IC manages the rescue effort, relays orders and protocols, tracks the teams, and organizes the plan of attack. You could also be part of the fundraising and awareness branch. I participate in parades, fundraisers, ride alongs, you name it. There are so many ways to participate.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@GloPro A “ground pounder” would probably suit me well. Thanks.

GloPro's avatar

Great! A good squad will also classify you from there. We have a hasty team (the “A” team, if you will), which is responsible for taking the most direct route at top speed to reach the subject. Any medical training is nice, and you must be in top shape.
From there they have a haul team, who packs in things like the litter, the wheel, medical supplies, etc. Also reasonably in good shape.
Finally, follow-up teams. If doing a search then many teams will take multiple search areas. If a rescue then a follow-up member may be useful in trading out with the initial rescuers carrying a part of the litter. It gets exhausting!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me A ham? I’m an A Extra. I never use it. Between the Interwebz and cell phones the ICOM collects dust.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@LuckyGuy Yeah, it’s dying and my interest is waning. I never bothered to get an extra I stopped at General. I still tinker with building antennas and playing with SDR but that’s about it. I do plenty of radio stuff for work though so that has helped hasten burn out with it. I’ll always at least have a 2 meter radio handy though.

Cruiser's avatar

@LuckyGuy The premise being in a disaster cell phone communication can be disrupted and the HAM dudes only need a car battery and they are up and running.

Reports indicate Hurricane Katrina, 2005, knocked out over 3 million landline circuits and over 1000 cell sites. Three weeks later, only 60% of the cell phone networks were operational and two million calls were still failing.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

We have VHF/UHF repeaters at a couple of locations in the area. That lets me cover all of Western NY with my handheld Kenwood. Neat, but unappreciated by most folks.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

We have multiple uhf and vhf repeaters in my area also. Many of them are also linked. There basically are no frequencies left so I can always get someones attention on a handheld regardless of my general location. I can usually hit an auto patch in areas that I hike without cell service.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I hope you decided to do it. I thought of some other positive reasons.
-It will help you stay active and physically fit.
-You will meet wonderful people. People wiling to give of themselves to help others with nothing expected in return. People you will trust with your life – and will trust theirs with you. They make the best friends (and spouses if you are in the market.) .
-You will learn about infrastructure and how our society really functions.

Do it for a few months and you will become one of those special people who run toward the noise rather than away. You will be a doer!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m planning on it at this point.

GloPro's avatar

I’m getting my HAM license this Saturday. I don’t know why, or really when it would be useful to me, but my SAR is paying for me to become better educated and able to respond. SAR rocks! Let us know when you take those steps and join!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Go ahead and study for your general then. They’ll let you take it right then if you pass your technician. A great cheap radio to start is the baofeng uv5r. I have three of them. They cost around $35 and will do both uhf and vhf.

GloPro's avatar

I will re-read that Saturday after class. I don’t even know what that means :-)

LuckyGuy's avatar

@GloPro @ARE_you_kidding_me Are you both sure those radios will work with a female voice? I don’t think I’ve ever heard one on a Ham radio. ;-)

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Hmmm, thats a good question. That may require the mic input to be recalibrated

GloPro's avatar

With a southern accent, to boot. The lost ones will come find ME, hahah.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Oh, they’ll bandpass any southern accent.

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