Colorado Search and Rescue Teams Gather in Summit County for Annual Training

Ryan Delano is practicing his rappelling technique during a search and rescue training course on Friday, September 24, near Windy Point Campground.
Liz Copan / For the Daily News Summit

Search and rescue teams from across Colorado gathered in Summit County this weekend for the annual SARCon event, an opportunity for members to learn about new tools and techniques, learn about the recent advancements in the field and to share tips and tricks with rescuers from different agencies. .

More than 120 volunteer rescuers attended the three-day event this year – hosted by the Colorado Search and Rescue Association and Flight for Life – taking part in technical rescue drills, medical training and a number of lectures and seminars given by some of the region’s top lifeguards. experienced experts.

“People are coming from all over the state to this conference,” said Anna DeBattiste, public information manager for the Summit County Rescue Group. “… This is a great opportunity for teams to come together, network and practice working together. When we have mutual aid appeals, we have teams working together, and different teams have different styles, procedures, equipment, and different ways of doing the same thing. It’s an opportunity for us to learn from each other and to be on the same page.

On Friday, September 24, rescuers split into groups for different field sessions: some traveled to Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge for medical training alongside Flight for Life, while others ventured to a small hiking trail off Swan Mountain Road near Prospector Campground to practice their dive rescue skills.

SARCon brings together search and rescue officers of all skill levels and experience. For long-time veterans, the event offers a chance to chat with other seasoned lifeguards, experiment with new techniques to take home at their own agencies, and share tips with newbies. For new members, this is a great opportunity to learn the ropes – literally – in a safe, low-stakes environment with plenty of expert commentary.

“I brought three of my newest and youngest here,” said Keith Keesling, search and rescue spokesperson for Dolores County. “There is a great wealth and years of experience here at SARCon every year, and it seems like they are steeped in it. … You never want to learn on a mission because, here especially, you might have an anxiety level of one because you have instructors, and you know you are safe. Take an anxiety level of 10 and you make mistakes. … It’s always low pressure here; that is really what is good.

Instructors say right and wrong are often subjective in the search and rescue world, so the training allows participants to experiment with different strategies and tools and find what works best for them and their respective teams.

“There are a thousand different ways to skin the Mountain Rescue Cat, and very few of them are fake,” said Tom Wood, a member of the Evergreen Alpine Rescue Team who was one SARCon instructors for the past eight years. or. “But there are some that tend to perform better than others. … So we really like the cross-pollination aspect of an event like this where we can bring people in and expose them to different ways of doing things using different tools.

Brian Taylor, second from right, gives search and rescue training Friday, September 24, near Windy Point Campground.
Liz Copan / For the Daily News Summit

“You don’t have to say, ‘This is wrong’ or ‘This is terrible. You can say, “This is really interesting, and I’m going to take it back to my team and see if this is something we can do to help save lives better or make our rescuers safer.” As much as it is fun to play with ropes, at the end of the day the goal is to get people to save lives better and make them safer while they are doing it.

In addition to hands-on training, participants were also able to choose from classroom sessions on different medical, command and technical topics. The sessions teach rescuers everything from how to take decisive action in medical emergencies to the capabilities of various aircraft for search operations to the effectiveness of social media in fundraising and recruiting.

This year’s main presentation was given by Jerad Hoff, a Civil Air Patrol cell forensics technical specialist, who explained how the group is working with the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center to expand the use of cell forensics analysis. cell phone data for search and rescue. efforts.

Martin Barnett demonstrates the basics of rock climbing safety during a search and rescue training course on Friday, September 24, near Windy Point Campground.
Liz Copan / For the Daily News Summit

“Probably the coolest thing we do is have the (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center) talk about cell phone forensics,” DeBattiste said. “… We can get into that phone, find out if it’s on, where it was last used and where it was last. … This is an excellent tool for understanding what a last seen point could have been.

Overall, SARCon attendees say it’s a fun and valuable experience.

“It’s just an opportunity to learn more and get training,” said Logan Haag, a member of the Teller County Search and Rescue Team. “We do a lot of inter-agency or multi-agency assignments, so it’s nice to be able to go out and meet people when you need to do things outside of your country. It’s super fun.

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