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DESERT EXPOSURE

APRIL 2017 • 23

SEARCHING TO RESCUE • ANDREA IMLER

Volunteers do Important Work Too Grant County group helps with state police missions, other activities

G

rant County Search and Rescue is an all-volunteer organization that was established in 1978, and has been responding to search and rescue (SAR) missions since. Despite the name, the organization is not affiliated with the government entity of Grant County. A SAR mission in New Mexico is initiated only by the New Mexico State police. GCSAR’s “home base” is State Police District 12, which is comprised of all of Grant County, and small parts of Hidalgo, Catron, and Luna Counties. Even so, Grant County SAR is authorized to respond to a search and rescue mission anywhere in the state of New Mexico, if needed. The members of GCSAR come from all walks of life and various occupations, and have a wide range of interests, experience levels, and resources to offer to the team. Members are not required to have any special skills or knowledge to become a member. The only requirement is the willingness to train and prepare for a SAR mission. Most the work is done by field teams who often cover many miles over rough terrain. There is also a group of individuals who provide services such as team call-outs, radio operations, and personnel who plan, organize, and manage the mission. Every mission typically sets up and runs an office in the middle of the forest. In addition to responding to search and rescue missions, GCSAR assists with communication for the Tour of the Gila, the Tommyknocker Race and the annual Christmas parade. GCSAR is available for educational opportunities and presentations for groups and organizations.

How to Activate SAR? If you feel you, or someone you know is in trouble in the forest, do not hesitate to call 911. Alerting the authorities in a timely basis could mean the difference in life and death. A trained member of the New Mexico State Police will gather the initial information, and Laurie Wlosinski and Lee Perry go through the steps of what happens at a Grant County Search and Rescue incident base to create the plan of action for a mission. (Photo by Andrea Imler)

During a training mission Lee Perry and Stephane Luchini look at tracks to see where the subject may have gone. (Photo by Andrea Imler)

then contact the on-duty Search and Rescue Field Coordinator to initiate a Search and Rescue response. A lost or injured person, or their family, never receives a bill from the State of New Mexico or from Search and Rescue for that operation. Many times, aircraft from the State Police, the National Guard, or Border Patrol may be used on SAR missions. Those agencies will also not bill for their services. However, if a private air ambulance is used to transport a subject for a medical emergency, they may bill the subject.

When hopelessly lost, do the following, unless there are sound reasons to do otherwise: 1. Don’t panic. Sit down, take several deep breaths, eat some food, drink some water, and take it easy until you calm down. Remember, people lost in the wilderness are typically found within 72 hours. If you must move to improve your safety, mark your

direction of travel in an obvious fashion. It will make it easier for SAR teams to track you. 2. Unless you must move to improve your safety, stay where you are rather than travel further into the unknown. It is far easier for a SAR team to find a stationary subject than a moving subject. Plus, you may inadvertently move into an area that was previously searched, and won’t be searched again for a long time. 3. Send periodic emergency signals, such as blowing a whistle, clapping your hands, or shouting. Do this at night occasionally also. SAR teams do travel and search at night, plus sound carries farther in the night time stillness. 4. Stay warm, dry and hydrated. Make a fire if conditions permit. Do not make a fire during windy or dry conditions. Causing a forest fire will only make your situation worse. 5. Make and consume warm/hot liquids as circumstances allow. Even hot water is good. During snow season, never eat snow for hydration, as the effort the body has to make to warm yourself from the snow outweighs the hydration received. Instead, melt the snow to water before drinking. 6. If necessary, make a simple shelter. Protection from winds and rain are the main concerns. In New Mexico, people can get hypothermia even in the summer. Con-

sider using the base of a large tree or overhanging rock for shelter from the elements. However, don’t forget to look up for broken limbs or dangerous rock conditions. 7. Try your cell phone. You might successfully make a 911 call even if you are not in your phone companies’ service areas. Even if your phone has no reception, it can still be useful. If you hear a helicopter at night, it is probably out searching for you. The light from your phone could be used to attract their attention, especially if they are using night vision goggles. Conserve your batteries. “…that others may live.” It is a very gratifying experience to be part of the mission that brings a lost one back for a reunion with their family and friends. A member of GCSAR typically joins because they like being active in the outdoors, and want to offer their skills to someone who is lost or hurt. The training and preparation for a SAR mission builds the member of GCSAR into a team. Our mission statement is clear; we do this for a good reason; “…that others may live.” GCSAR holds a regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the EMS building next to the Gila Regional Hospital. Everyone interested in finding out more is welcome at the meeting, or can email at president@gcsarnm.org for more information.

Why Do People Need Search and Rescue? People sometimes are not adequately prepared for their trip, or make bad decisions. Many times, people assume the forest is simply a large park and don’t think about the hazards and dangers associated with rugged terrain and the possibility of rapidly changing weather. Here are a few tips to help you out, should you become lost in the forest or wilderness.

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