Changing tech, consistent dedication

March 11, 2020 12:41 PM

I really enjoyed the column Flannery wrote last week about North Valley Search and Rescue training on the North Fork. In addition to being a North Forker, Flannery is also a new member of North Valley Search and Rescue (NVSR). What she may or may not know is that North Fork training is a renewal of an old tradition.

For years, NVSR had weekend-long winter training on the North Fork. Those gatherings focused on outdoor survival skills and elaborate mock search missions over a wide area. Our emergency medical training was pretty basic, but we were pretty darned good outdoorsmen and women.

Today’s Search and Rescue Teams are still pretty darned good outdoorsmen and women but we have more active women than thirty years ago. Today we have technological tools that were nonexistent in 1970 when NVSR was first organized.

In those days we were lucky to have a surplus military rubber raft, never mind two jet boats. We did not even imagine having a helicopter never mind the state of the art bird that Two Bear loans to us. It has hoists and cameras including infrared capability that can really speed up a rescue, making it easier to conduct and reducing time spent getting a victim to medical treatment as well as finding an injured victim much faster. We used to put injured victims in an ambulance sled towed by a snowmobile and believe me, a two hour or more ride in a sled was not comfortable with a broken leg. Especially compared to being hoisted into a helicopter and delivered to a hospital less than thirty minutes later. GPS units, cell phones and easily portable radios have also played an important role in reducing the time it takes to find a lost or injured person in the backcountry. The same is true of bigger, faster snowmobiles, although they are a two-edged sword. Yes, we can now get out and back faster but so can recreationists.

Snowshoers do not get as far into the backcountry and seldom if ever trigger an avalanche. Skiers and snowmobilers are a different story especially if they are not experienced or don’t check avalanche warnings or equip themselves properly for possible weather changes or transponders.

The one thing that has not changed is the dedication of search and rescue members. These are relatively young folks who love the outdoors and are willing to spend hundreds of hours training and responding at all times of the day or night to help folks in trouble.

Finding a lost child, an overdue hunter, or someone who is injured and successfully reuniting them with loved ones is very satisfying. Recovering dead bodies is very hard especially when they are badly decomposed.

NVSR is fifty years old this summer. Organized by Dick Walsh and others to recover bodies lost in a boating accident on the North Fork, they have always been an asset to the community. Nice thing is they get better every year.

What do you think?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.