IMSARU members went to the Sunset Mountain area in Boise County to train for a snow mission requiring them to spend a night out. Training this year took on added significance, as a mission in January had five of our members overnighting in the snow with a subject. For this outing we had dry and warm weather. This recent warm weather pattern comes with the downside of providing a dwindling snowpack, leaving just enough snow at elevations around 7,000 feet for our group to work with. Shelters included tents, simple trenches, a quinzee hut, and a trench with snow roof. A cool, starry night meant varying levels of sleep, followed by return hike to the vehicles Sunday morning. While we don’t frequently need to overnight in the field on winter missions, our recent history dictates that it is a good idea to train for such an event. Members attending this outing now have a better idea of gear and tactics needed to get themselves and a subject through a winter night out when extraction needs to wait for daylight.
Twenty-three members of the IMSARU team went to Soldier Mountain on the weekend of January 24-25 for avalanche awareness field training. Taught by NSP Level 1 instructor and long-time IMSARU member Brad Acker, this weekend is one pillar of member training to safely and effectively participate in a winter mission. Classroom work done in conjunction with this field event introduces participants to safe winter backcountry travel and rescue skills. Saturday’s training centered around individual skills stations involving probing, shoveling, and beacon searches. At day’s end, participants had a chance to alternate hiding and finding a beacon on the hillsides while working their way back to the parking area. Sunday started with a discussion of snow stability assessment before the group returned to the top of Soldier Mountain to execute two full search scenarios involving search management, beacon searches, clue management, spot probing, and probe lines. A big thanks to Brad for coordinating the training and to all who turned out for two long days of “playing” in the snow.
The course provided an opportunity for K9 teams already certified in human remains detection to expand their skills by working in simulated disaster scenarios. Teams were challenged by working on rubble piles and in confined spaces underground. The course, held in Elko, NV, was organized by Cheryl Cuthbertson and sponsored by Elko County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue.
Instructors were Greg Strickland, FEMA and law enforcement K9 handler from Florida, and Doug Fisher, Elko County S.O. K9 handler and master trainer for the American Society of Canine Trainers.
In the photo, K9 Uki and handler Siw get raised from the underground tunnel system by Elko firemen. Other IMSARU teams participating were Ann with K9s Watson and Cricket, and Jamie with K9 Yoki.
IMSARU training for October returned to navigation practice. We took some time in the classroom on Tuesday night to review basics of map, compass, GPS, and mapping software. On Saturday it was off to Polecat Gulch where 30 members walked through a course set up by Chris Brookman, our go-to navigation trainer. The course tested our ability to navigate to search areas, use a specified search technique, convert between coordinate systems, execute a variety of basic navigation skills, and return with tracks to upload into the mapping software.
Next month we'll be working on search leadership and tactics in the classroom. Our field day will be spent at the compound working on basecamp setup and mission equipment. Come join us.
IMSARU returned to its monthly training schedule in September after an August devoted to fund raising. This month’s training topic was patient packaging and litter handling. Members were introduced to concepts and equipment in the classroom on Tuesday night, moving to “hands-on” field training on Saturday morning. We practiced packaging patients in our various litter options including the Stokes basket, Cascade breakdown litter, and a Sked at the compound. We then moved to Tablerock for a scenario using Rescue Randy as a fall victim requiring extrication along a path filled with obstacles. The day finished with an introduction to working as a litter attendant for a steep angle technical rescue scenario.
It’s time for the Western Idaho Fair, and hot buttered corn. IMSARU has been selling sweet corn at The Fair since 1965. That tradition continues this year with lots of volunteer labor provided by IMSARU members, friends, families, and other organizations looking to lend a hand. BOISE Corp returns once again, providing enough volunteers to staff the booth for an entire day. THANKS!! to all who volunteer their time and all who stop by to purchase corn. Your support of the corn booth allows us to fund approximately half of our annual budget.
Twenty-seven IMSRU members spent part of a Saturday at the end of May training with the Idaho National Guard. Members were introduced to many aspects of Blackhawk operations, including exposing our search dogs to the experience of boarding with engines and rotors running. It is not uncommon for IMSARU and the National Guard Blackhawks to cross paths on SAR missions, so this was an important training opportunity. We are grateful to the Blackhawk crews for giving their time on Saturday to ensure that we are familiar with safe and effective work in and around these helicopters. Additional thanks go to all those in the National Guard chain of command who helped make this training possible.
The K9 Team held water human remains detection (HRD) training Saturday in Gem County. The training was organized and run by Julie, who is a National Search Dog Alliance (NSDA) evaluator. Andy’s new boat, with it’s low profile, is ideal for this type of training, as the dogs can get their noses close to the water while searching for the source. He also installed a carpeted platform in the bow, which gives the K9s a stable, flat surface to work from. His boat will get a lot of use this summer as some teams prepare for water certifications in late June, and teams new to the discipline gain exposure to this specialized skill. The dogs and handlers loved spending a hot day on the water. Participating K9s: Cricket (seen in the photo), Libby, Watson, Riffle and Yoki.
Eighteen members spent May’s SAR training field day at the compound working through six stations covering different mission skills. Stations were proctored by seven senior members of the unit, testing and teaching topics covering field leadership, mission prep, twenty-four hour packs, navigation, first aid, and patient packaging. We’ve had a quiet end to winter and beginning of spring as far as mission callouts are concerned, making training like this very important for us to stay sharp for the time when that call does come.
We drove through rain mixed with snow and watched the black clouds on our way up to Grey Back Gulch on Saturday morning, but the clouds went around and Linda had set up good problems. The novice trackers had two sign lines through actual green vegetation (a luxury for southwest Idaho) and the certified trackers followed a line along the edge of a dirt/gravel road that had been well traveled by hikers (including a bunch of children), motorcycles, and ATVs. The sign line then left the road and went up a dirt bank at a convenient place for deer and campers gathering firewood…challenging and rewarding.