Studies on Wilderness Search and Rescue

7:32 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Some interesting studies have been compiled on trends in incidents  requesting, or requiring, wilderness search and rescue.

Here is Epidemiology of Wilderness Search and Rescue in New Hampshire, 1999–2001


Search and Rescue Trends Associated With Recreational Travel in US National Parks

Some very interesting stats, both those docs are worth reading. 


8:25 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Theres a lot of intetesting facts in both of those. I didnt realize day hikers made up such a large percentage of the people needing rescue. And 65% werent injured or sick, I wonder how many of them are from lack of gear. That and being lost would be my guess, but if they didnt have any nav aids it would still be a lack of gear in my opinion.

10:52 a.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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Good information.  Thanks.

9:10 a.m. on January 9, 2013 (EST)
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I thought you would get more response from this post. Sheds some light on who is getting rescued, plus the diff types of rescue.

12:00 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

I thought you would get more response from this post. Sheds some light on who is getting rescued, plus the diff types of rescue.

 Very true. The other NH rescue post comes down to 'everybody has an opinion' but doesn't look at the data. 

I'll add this one:

and this:

5:22 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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facts trump rhetoric.  thank you for posting this.


5:24 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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All good reads, i had seen them before in one place or another.

Be safe out there, always carry your 10 essentials at a minimum.

1:15 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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Four years ago while backpacking in Yosemite I saw a guy, likely in his 60s, choppered out from the Toulmne River Trail. Paramedics reached him the previous night and stabilized him with an IV of Ringers Lactate or similar.

I'd hate to have the bill for that chopper ride - in a Stokes litter at the end of a 100 ft cable, no less.  

Oh, yeah, at that time I was 65 but in far better shape than he was. I'd seen him backpacking earlier and he had ALL new gear, likely never used until that hike.

8:54 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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Thought I'd revisit this after a lengthy conversation I had with a guide recently. He is a certified guide and a team leader of the NH SAR and has been on all of the rescues that have occurred this winter season already.

His thoughts are that there is a massive volunteer crew ready to be dispatched and willing to rescue hikers at the drop of a hat, simply out of their passion and interest. Despite this plethora of volunteers, the Forest services insist on sending in sometimes 5-6 wardens for each rescue at $50 a hour plus overtime, when those wardens (while knowledgeable) are not nearly as skilled or knowledgeable as most of the volunteers. In his opinion, he thought reducing the number of wardens to 1 or 2 for communication and assistance during rescues would be enough, reducing costs by thousands each year.

Any thoughts on this?

2:05 p.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Hi. iClimb. Good question, but maybe I can play devil's advocate.

In any group of volunteer SAR crews I've seen, there is a wide range of abilities, from total newbies to ex-professionals. Often, the required volunteer training is limited to the basics, like CPR/First Aid, and the rest is offered in-house or on site by other (hopefully) more experienced volunteers. In some cases (although rarely) that can become a case of the blind leading the blind. 

But while some rescues are mostly a matter of having as much manpower as possible, others require technical skills such as climbing or avalanche training. If a semi-trained volunteer was to try to tackle a rescue of that kind, they'd be likely to require rescue themselves. 

The biggest difference between the volunteers and guides or wardens is that none of the volunteers do it as part of their regular work. Wardens are out in the backcountry every day, as are many of the guides, while the volunteers are always part-timers. When you work outside all the time, you'll have the right gear, the right skills, and the right attitude to take care of yourself. Professionals are rewarded for taking extra training, and they get it paid for, while volunteers usually aren't.

It's curious that you mention a professional guide as the source for this idea. Every guide I've ever met thinks he knows more than the government staff (in our case, Parks Canada) and every Parks warden sees himself as more knowledgeable and capable than the guides. 

All that being said, the most impressive group I've ever met is the Parks Canada Rescue crew that works in Jasper and Banff (see reports above). They're the ones who get to pull fallen climbers off a cliff face, drag bodies off the bottom of a lake, or coordinate Mounties and Parks staff in a wilderness search for missing people.

5:58 p.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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I have mixed feelings on that new idea. If it was handled on a case by case basis, it might work. For the more technical, maybe vertical rescues more organization and professional input is prob needed. The searches that involve mainly beating the bushes with as many bodies as possible could prob be handled by mostly volunteers. A good triage, for lack of a better word, to determine the personel needed would be needed. Maybe even paying for the proper training for some of the long term volunteers would cut down on the overhead of these rescues. A new idea is needed, as the cost and number of rescues seems to be increasing. Maybe I just pay more attention, as they seem to be getting more publicity these days. I like the idea of a hikers card, not sure about the current proposal of $18 as a one time fee. It would make more sense to me to make it $10 a year.

7:26 a.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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During the winter, NHF&G is responsible for all rescues in the White Mountain National Forest; not the Forest Service. NHF&G has few Conservation Officers and they are spread over the entire state. So your friend couldn't mean NHF&G COs, but since F&G is responsible for the searches, how are these Forest Wardens coming on the scene?

8:07 a.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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I have heard f&g officers referred to as wardens. The older generation around here still call them game wardens almost exclusively. I dont know if thats what he means, but it is a commonly used term.

9:35 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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Peter - you probably have a good point about some volunteer's definitely a good question to bring up.

This guide I am speaking to, however, would be hard pressed to find much for competition. His knowledge and ability, as well as fitness, is absolutely incredible. If my life were on the line, I would take him over an experienced warden any day for a needed rescue.

I took his word to mean something, because he was referring to the team leaders of the volunteer staff. Yes, some of the staff are new and green, but they are mostly there for strength, to have extra bodies, and to take some of the heavy loads as needed. For the team leaders he was referring to, many of them have been professionally guiding longer than the wardens have even been alive. They have a collective knowledge of hundreds of years between them. They cost nothing and they go on every rescue. They also do most of the work and the wardens even look to them for advice and strategies. He had a decent point I think.

and yes, hotdogman, that's why I refer to them as "wardens"

10:13 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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Waders, thanks for posting. A lot of good info here. In Washington, we have a number of organizations that work in SAR. Some are professional, such as the Sheriff's Dept. in particular counties, but most are volunteer. The main reason for the latter is the scope and cost of having paid SAR would be egregious. In King County, there are nine separate organizations who participate in SAR, including mountain rescue, air SAR, and tracking with dogs. Many of these people who volunteer their time, have great skills in their particular fields and are recognized as such by the state, and county coordinators. Often a rescue will have to be coordinated between several groups. A fallen climber might involve Air SAR, Mountain Rescue, etc. just to get the injured person to safety. As well, in places like the North Cascades NP or Mt. Rainier NP, rangers are well trained, some quite experienced in things like mountain rescue, but there simply aren't enough paid staff to cover all the personal and skills needed for a rescue.

8:42 a.m. on February 13, 2013 (EST)
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Like I said, iClimb, just playing devil's advocate.

One big difference between SAR in different areas is who pays for it. Canada'a national parks can afford to have a full time crew of highly trained professionals, backed up by police, park staff, medics, and military equipmenet and crews when needed. That's paid for with the fees that people pay to enter, and with millions of visitors every year, the costs are covered.

There are any number of guides who work in the parks, too, but while they could be asked to help, like other volunteers they aren't usually needed. 

What this means is that youi rarely have to rescue volunteer rescuers who run itno trouble themselves. 

In provincial jurisdictions, police are usually at the centre of every search, and local SAR would operate (often as part of a volunteer fire department) to support them as needed. In rural areas, a couple of Mounties might be the only official staff available (as with American State Troopers), and they would take responsibility for organizing volunteers or bringing in extra staff or equipment when needed. Again, the professionals are federally or municipally-funded, and are better trained at managing a search than the volunteers.

10:37 a.m. on February 13, 2013 (EST)
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I know you were, it def made me think. The important part about his point I think was that the leaders themselves are generally more experienced than the wardens, and their ability to lead a rescue and direct the newer volunteers is very adequate. 

11:01 a.m. on February 13, 2013 (EST)
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I made a fixed wing airplane ride with paramedics in 2007 to get to the hospital in Bend, OR.  I was astounded by the $15,000 bill.  Insurance only paid $5000.  Keep this in mind if you do anything dangerous out there like climbing, horses or ski mountaineering.  There are insurance policies that can be had that cover these types of expenses in the event of an extraction.

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