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.

September 20, 2009

Back From The 2009 Arizona State SAR Conference

Every eighteen months, Search & Rescue volunteers and professionals from around the state of Arizona, and even some from other states, get together to learn from one another and improve their skills. At this year's conference, my second since joining SAR, classes included:

Basic Map & Compass
Basic GPS
PLB/ELT Direction Finding
Tracking, an 8-hour course (I took this one. Learned a lot.)
Wilderness Survival
Basic ATV and Basic UTV
Advanced ATV Search Tactics
Air Operations--Ground and Air Unit Coordination
Alzheimers Disease Considerations for SAR (This class was great!)
Swiftwater Rescue Awareness
Vehicle Track Awareness (Another one I took this year)

... and more. There were also classes and field work for those in Mounted and K-9 SAR.

At the conference, I had a chance to meet SAR volunteers and coordinators from many Arizona counties, Civil Air Patrol, the Department of Public Safety, and from SAR teams in California and Mississippi, including one deputy who is just starting up a new team. Experience levels ranged from new volunteers just going through a Basic SAR Academy to seasoned veterans who've been involved with hundreds or even thousands of missions.

Based on my experiences at the Arizona SAR Conference, I'd recommend that anyone involved with Search & Rescue look for a conference to attend at least once. Even if you're very experienced, it never hurts to learn how other teams operate and how they teach the skills. It's also really nice to meet people from teams and organizations you may interact with during a multi-agency mission. If I ever have the opportunity, I'd like to attend a conference in another state and the national conference at some point.

If you're looking for a conference to attend, one website to check is SARAZ.org's "Conferences & Training" section. This is an Arizona-based website, but listings include events in other states, including the International Tech Rescue Symposium in Pueblo, Colorado from November 5-8, 2009 and the 3rd Annual Georgia SAR Conference on January 29-31, 2010.
As far as missions lately, there were a couple shortly before the conference, one of which was a tech team call involving a hiker in West Clear Creek canyon who'd injured his knee. But we ended up being turned around en route to the scene, because the helicopter was able to land in the canyon and pick up the patient.

The next mission involved a lost hiker in Sedona, who reported his predicament by cell phone. This turned out to be a joint mission with the adjacent county, with each member from our team paired with a member of the other. I wasn't able to respond to that late-night call-out because of a commitment I had to my mom early the next morning and because I was really tired, but a teammate filled me on the details. He also told me what a pleasure it was to work with the Yavapai County team and that it was a "textbook" SAR mission. I was sorry to have to miss it.

While more than a dozen of my teammates and I were at the conference, there were a few more requests for SAR, one involving a patient carry-out (possibly a technical rescue) when a vehicle went off the highway and two other calls about lost hikers. But our team is large enough and "deep" enough to handle call-outs even while many of us are out of town and unavailable. I can find out what happened on these missions at the next General Meeting, when our coordinator will review the call-outs from the preceding month.

So now I'm home and ready to get back out there. I'm also looking forward to helping with the Basic Academy's Map & Compass class this weekend. I actually really like going over these skills--over and over again--and helping others learn them, too, because it keeps me from getting rusty, which is really easy for me to do. And speaking of practicing, a few of us newbie tech team members are getting together this week to run through some of what we were recently tested on. We passed the test, but we don't want to forget what we've learned before we move on to new skills.

Have I mentioned lately that I really like SAR? I get frustrated when I screw up or don't do my best, but I sure am happy when I do something right or get better.

(P.S. Photos will be back soon. My camera is out of surgery and on its way home.)

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