About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

March 12, 2012

It's Time to Learn Some SAR Ops

Now that I'm in my fifth year with Coco SAR, I'm eligible to begin training for SAR Ops (Ops = Operations). I'm pretty excited about this, because I love that part of Search and Rescue. That is, I look forward to helping with things like mapping out and planning a search, allocating resources and personnel, directing SAR members as they show up for a mission as to what needs to be done and what gear needs to be loaded, and assisting with whatever else the coordinator might need when preparing for a mission.

On Tuesday, March 13th through the 15th, I'll be taking the Intermediate Incident Command System (ICS) class, which will cover topics such as transfer of command, unified command functions in a multi-jurisdictional or multi-agency incident, ICS forms, resource management, inter-agency mission planning and procurement, and ICS staffing and organization to include reporting, working relationships and information flow.


The way it's working these days with our team is that, when the coordinator is contacted about a SAR call, he'll do some initial investigation and then, if necessary (depending on the type of mission it is), call out just those members qualified to help with operations. Whichever "Ops leaders" are available at that stage respond to the SAR building to assist. Then, when ready, the coordinator will do a general call-out for the rest of the team or just the technical rescue team or even specific members with specific skills as the case may warrant.

Other than the paid coordinators, SAR ops folks are all volunteer members of team. (Many are also members of the tech team, and one or two are mounted unit members.) Some of those who help with Ops have been on the team for many years--more than 25 years in one case--and have taken many different Ops courses. I'm looking forward to that type of training, myself.

Sometimes, Ops leaders and the Coordinator are able to resolve a situation, often with the help of deputies on scene or over the phone with a lost subject, before a general call-out is made, so other volunteers are able to keep doing what they're doing (like sleeping, for one thing) and never know about the situation until it's discussed at a monthly meeting. It's amazing how many times the Coordinator has been "just about to push the button" for a general call-out when the subject has been located or assisted back to safety or a known location by phone. That saves the rest of us a lot of interrupted activities and unnecessary response. Saves money too, not to mention time for the person/s who needed help in the first place.

Want to know more about Incident Command System training? These classes are part of FEMA's National Incident Management Training Program. Visit the FEMA NIMS Training site.

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