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.

August 26, 2010

Mountain Rescue Association Tests: One Down, Two To Go

Our team has decided to apply for membership in the Mountain Rescue Association. The MRA is made up of mountain rescue teams from around the country and has strict requirements for membership. The teams make up the Association rather than individuals.

To become accredited by MRA, a team has to pass three different field tests based on guidelines established by the Association. The tests are conducted on appropriate terrain in the team's area by at least three current MRA teams working together to evaluate the applicant group being tested. The tests include high-angle rescue (rock rescue), ice and snow, and wilderness search. Accredited teams must re-test every five years to maintain their accreditation.

From the MRA website: 

"The Mountain Rescue Association ... was established in 1959 at Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, Oregon, making us the oldest Search and Rescue association in the United States.With over 90 government authorized units in the US, Canada and other countries, the MRA has grown to become the critical mountain search and rescue resource in the United States.

"Because MRA teams are test-qualified by their peers, local, state, and federal agencies feel confident about working with them on search and rescue operations."

So, our team was very happy to pass the first of three tests--Wilderness Search. It was run like any real search operation that's gone beyond the hasty search phase. In this case, the hasty phase was verbalized by our coordinator as all participants and evaluators gathered around the Command trailer for the briefing. As usual, searchers were given packets with information about the missing subjects, maps of the area, the weather forecast, and safety and communications information. When all field teams had their assignments, we headed out to do what we always do ... except, this time, we were being watched and evaluated and had to answer evaluators' questions as we worked.

All in all, the mission went really well. Teams located most of the clues that had been placed in the rather large search area, and we located both subjects, one of whom required medical evaluation and care and a litter evacuation to an imaginary waiting ambulance. The other subject, who was mobile, was found by one of the containment teams, driving Forest Service roads.

At the end of the mission later that afternoon, evaluators met privately to discuss the operation and how we did, then came over to our waiting group to give us feedback and announce that we'd passed. Yay!

And now for test number two--rock rescue--in October. So that means extra practice for many of us on the technical rescue team. Here's Patrick practicing a mid-face litter scoop in the SAR building (without the cliff face, that is):

The rescuer gets the injured victim into the "tuxedo" to protect his spine.

The rescuer maneuvers the patient into the litter.

Tah-dah! Ready for raise.
 In other Coconino County SAR news, our team was involved in a body recovery below Midgley Bridge in Sedona. See: Midgley Bridge Suicide Briefly Closes 89A.

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