3. Clue Awareness
Search and rescue members are trained to become "clue aware". This means that searchers are looking for and are able to discern the various types of clues that a subject leaves. The most important clue is the subject! Probably next most important is footprints because they can lead a searcher to the subject. Only one type of animal leaves footprints like those of humans, and they leave tracks that are discernable by a trained tracker. Humans usually wear shoes, and this usually allows a tracker to identify a particular human.
Subjects may also leave objects behind: candy wrappers, cigarette butts, peelings, gear, and clothing. If a subject is known to have had objects with him/her, the careful search for and reporting of found objects can confirm a subject's direction of travel and status.
Clue Awareness training sessions are held periodically throughout the year by members of North Idaho Trackers, most often at the spring or fall training and practice searches.
Often you may see searchers with ski poles in the field. The poles aid a trained tracker in following tracks. Using rubber rings on the pole, a tracker is able to mark the length of the subject's footprint and the length of his/her stride. By moving the pole in a 30 arc from one print, the tracker can speedily discover the succeeding print, and thus get a good idea of the direction and speed of travel.
4. Rope Rescue
Palouse/Clearwater is the only unit of Latah SAR that does low-angle rope rescue work. We have a core of trained members, though relatively few members actually go "over the edge". For every person who goes over, four or five people are needed to support. If you are interested in this type of training, there is ample opportunity to participate. Training sessions of this type are announced at the regular membership meetings, and reminders appear in the monthly minutes.
5. Working With Search Dogs
As noted earlier, search dogs can detect a subject either by air scenting or ground scenting, at distances up to a mile. The dog obtains the subject's scent from "scent articles" – perhaps the subject's pillowcase, socks or underwear. Scent articles are kept in brown paper bags to keep them pristine, avoiding contamination by other people's scents or the perfumes often found in plastic bags. Scent article handling should be minimized, and tweezers or tongs should be used.
Palouse/Clearwater Search and Rescue members may be called on to work with a dog team, providing communications, support, or liaison. Here are some basic rules:
Do not smoke around dogs. Smoke desensitizes the dog's nose, and recovery can take hours.
Keep vehicle exhaust away from dogs for the same reason.
Do not play with the dog while it is working, even though the dog may really seem to want it. The dog handler usually has a favorite toy that is brought out after the dog has performed its role; the toy is the dog's reward. Play at reward time is the only appropriate time, and this must be at the handler's direction.
When assigned to a dog team, consult the handler to find out other rules.
The ability to effectively navigate in the woods is essential to search and rescue work. It is important to learn and to maintain these skills. A thorough knowledge of map and compass and the Public Lands Survey System (Township, Range, Section...) is needed to communicate position between a team and Base Camp. It is also usual for each search team to carry a GPS receiver, and knowing how to use one is invaluable to search management. Navigation training is conducted from time to time in training sessions, as well as periodically at general meetings.
Each searcher is expected to be equipped with personal gear as shown below. Gear such as radios, harnesses, GPS receivers, rope rescue materials and maps are distributed from supplies carried in county SAR vehicles.
1. Clothing and Boots
Your choice of clothing is important because SAR is often activated in bad weather (this is often the reason why a person is lost), and you are needed to remain warm and useful as a searcher, rather than being another subject of rescue. Rescuing a searcher is probably easier than finding and rescuing a subject, but it diverts valuable resources from the primary task.
The Latah County Search and Rescue policy is that cotton articles, especially blue jeans, are generally not allowed in the field. This is especially true in cool weather. As cotton gets wet from perspiration it conducts the heat needed to perform evaporation from the body at a much greater rate than other materials. We recommend wool or appropriate polyester clothing which stay warm when they are wet. Inexpensive wool clothing is still available in this area. We dress for utility, not fashion!
Your boots should keep your feet comfortable, warm and dry, given that you may be walking for hours through snow, slush, and several inches of water. "Tennis boots" are not recommended unless the weather is warm and dry.
2. 24 Hour Pack
You are expected to assemble a lightweight pack that contains everything you need to keep yourself and someone else alive for 24 hours. Since you are part of a team, not every person needs to carry every item. Lists of recommended items are periodically distributed; they serve as a guideline for your personal list. Your pack must be comfortable for you to wear for long periods in the field. It should be checked periodically, especially in early fall. Check for wear that could result in an equipment failure in the field – and thus another subject rather than a rescuer. Food stocks may need periodic refreshing. A supply of water is always needed. It may be added as you prepare to respond to a search callout.
To give newer members an idea of what a 24-hour pack should contain, periodically an experienced member demonstrates his or her pack
PCSAR Field Guide August 2011Page 4