“Local Hero”

© Gregg Morris | greggwrites.com

*Local Hero*
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department
Search & Rescue Team

Originally appeared in the Source January 18, 2012

Last November, a climber attempting The Wambat Route in Smith Rock State Park lost his hold and fell hard to a ledge below. Luckily for the climber, the Deschutes County Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue Unit was training in Smith Rock that day. They swung into action and immediately initiated the rescue.

“He fell onto a ledge which is a tricky rescue,” states Richard Adler, team member since 2007. “This was the first time we were able to perform a ground-up rescue. It worked perfectly.”

While skiing on Mount Bachelor over Christmas Break, 2010, a teenage boy didn’t rendezvous with his family at the end of the day. Daylight hours fading fast and temperatures dropping towards the single digits, DCSAR’s winter teams were called in to coordinate the search. The multi-agency search, in below-freezing weather, found the boy and returned him to his family without serious injury.

“Always Ready, So That Others May Live”

DCSAR’s list of abilities and accomplishments extends further than just their namesake. Beside conducting searches and rescues, the 118 member volunteer team performs fire evacuations, evidence & crime scene searches, public safety assists and natural disaster relief.

Ranging in age from early twenties to late sixties, the volunteers come from all backgrounds and experiences. Monthly general meetings yield former members of law enforcement discussing trainings with bankers. Meanwhile, professors rehash past missions with retirees. In fact, the two most common characteristics include the desire to help people and a love for the outdoors.

Richard Adler’s path to DCSAR started in California. “I was climbing in Southern California when a guy who was climbing 100ft above me fell really hard. I assisted in the rescue with a couple of other climbers. I ended up moving to Joshua Tree shortly after and got recruited to join their Search and Rescue team.”

Two more factors that bond the team members is the training and time commitment. After completing the intensive, new-member training academy, it is not uncommon for a DCSAR member to donate upwards of a 100 hours per month.

“If you volunteer for SAR, make sure you have the time and effort for training,” Adler adds. “There are lots of cogs in the wheel to facilitate a rescue.” This importance of training is stressed from day one.

Armed with a “24-hour pack” filled with a minimum supply of gear, food and light-weight shelter, DCSAR members are prepared to use their survival knowledge to safely spend the night in any condition.

All team members are trained in ground search techniques and have the assistance of all-terrain and four-wheel drive vehicles as well as mountain bikes. DCSAR members have a minimum Wilderness First Aid certification to assist the expertly trained Medical Team.

Search & Rescue Advancements

“We have grown a lot over the last decade,” states Al Hornish, a 12 year veteran of DCSAR.  “The number of teams has gone up, with the addition of the technology, rock climbing and mountain bike teams. The nature of missions has changed as well. There are more rescues and less searches, mostly because of the better technology available,” says Hornish.

Because there is no such thing as a typical mission, volunteers are asked to train in many different disciplines. Winter team members may be on the mountain rescue or dive teams. For example, Adler heads up the mountain bike team, is a member of the MRU team and conducts general searches and rescues. 

Why We Do What We Do

“I have a strong belief that people need to volunteer. If more people took to volunteering, the world would be a much better place, says Adler.

Hornish’s reasoning hits a little closer to home. “I’ve never experienced anything that comes close to the feeling of being on a team that rescues someone. People call us because they need us. They’re not messing around.” If you’re interested in becoming a member of Deschutes County SAR, the Sheriff’s Department is accepting applications for the 2012 Academy until 5pm, January 27th.

Gregg Morris writes the Outside Column for the Source and is a proud member of the Deschutes County Search & Rescue Team.