Alberni Valley Search and Rescue

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I just went out on my second night-practice with my new Search and Rescue team, the Alberni Valley Rescue Squad. I was previously on Westcoast Inland SAR, out of Ucluelet and Tofino. I miss my old crew, but the switch has been easy, and I’m really enjoying the team and the way it operates.

Last night ten of us went to the Hole in the Wall trails by Roger Creek, and simulated a search scenario. We divided into two teams, and Team 1 (mine) carried the stretcher and rope equipment down the trail, while Team 2 went ahead. Then our team was assigned a sound-search. Equipped with radios, GPS, and headlamps, we spread out perpendicular to the river, and tried to maintain 10-metre spacing while slowly searching upstream in a line. It’s hard to search in a straight line in this region, which is moderate temperate rainforest. There are downed trees, bramble patches, light brush covering sinkholes. You have to try to go through and over it all, as well as stay in sight of the person you’re spacing from.

The second part of the night involved setting up a rope system to lower a stretcher down a steep hill. We all got a chance to set up one of the two rope components. I tied the double prusik part. (Forgive the terminology, if I’m botching it! I’m salty, remember? Swiftwater rescue is my specialty, not ropes. After completing the 3-month Ground Search and Rescue course, and becoming a full team member, there are different specialty options to join. Tracking, Ropes, and Swiftwater are the three big ones.)

So we slid and guided the stretcher down the hill, with someone in it, supported by the rope system. Then we transported him all the way back up the trail to the road. We used a wheel under the stretcher, which I’ve never seen before and is awesome. It’s about as big as a tire, with off-road grip, and the centre of the stretcher attaches to it. This made it way, way easier to conduct what would have otherwise been a really challenging carry.

I didn’t have a chance to take photos while we were out there; it was hands-on the whole time, but here’s a post-practice photo of the SAR hall. Safe travels, everyone.

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