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Monday
Jun192017

Search and Rescue and CAC Join Forces to Clean Canyons

Please applaud Bill Loenhorst from the San Gorgonio Search and Rescue Team  and Hydrotek for once again stepping in to help with community cleanup projects. Two years ago, the Coalition of American Canyoneers (CAC) and the Cave and Technical Rescue Team created a plan to remove graffiti from waterfalls. We needed a relatively lightweight pressure washer to blast the graffiti off the rock. Bill, along with Hydrotek, stepped up and helped us build such a device. The CAC raised $1300 to pay for the wholesale cost of the machine.   Here is an article about its maiden voyage. Over the past two years, Bill has periodically thought of various ways to improve on the device. Not only has he spent time on the improvements, he was also able to cover the costs (over $500) through generous donations from various companies. The Coalition of American Canyoneers has now used the pressure washer to remove graffiti in California and Arizona canyons. The next graffiti cleanup is slated for the end of July in Southern California. 

Wednesday
Mar292017

California Region of the MRA Comes to San Bernardino Co

The first weekend in March, the California Region of the Mountain Rescue Association, descended upon the desert in San Bernardino County for their annual reaccredition. Many thanks to West Valley SAR for organizing this year's effort. It takes a lot of time and effort to host an event that calls for hundreds of SAR team members from more than 20 teams to arrive at a single location with all of their vehicles, and related equipment. Not to mention, setting up all of the scenarios, arranging for "missing hikers", "missing evidence", food, etc. A special thanks to nearby San Bernardino teams: Morongo Basin SARVictor Valley SAR and the Barstow Desert Rescue Squad for assisting with logistics and missing people. Until you have attended an MRA reaccreditation, it is difficult to understand the amount of work that it takes to host one of these events.

 

The Cave Team, West Valley SAR, and Wrightwood SAR successfully completed their reaccreditations after tracking and locating a missing hiker, and completing an evidence search. All the while, the command post and field teams are under the watchful eyes of MRA evaluators.

 

The Mountain Rescue Association is the only nationally recognized body that accredits search and rescue teams. To be a fully accredited member, the team must complete 3 accreditations: Search Management/Tracking, Winter Snow and Ice Operations, and Technical Rope Rescue. To obtain these accreditations, prospective teams are mentored by a fully-accredited team until they are ready to test. The test is then completed by the team, and evaluated by other MRA team members from across the state. To complete a single MRA accreditation often requires multiple years of planning and preparation. For example, the Cave and Technical Rescue Team completed their technical rope accreditaion in 1999 after nearly 2 years of preparation. A few years later, the team decided to complete accreditation in the remaining two disciplines, and successfully completed them in 2006 and 2008. San Bernardino County has two fully-accredited teams (West Valley SAR, and the Cave Team), and one associate member team (Wrightwood SAR) who has completed the Search/Tracking accreditation.
Friday
Jan202017

Wireless File Sharing Without Internet Access

TP-Link MR-3040 wireless router. Tootsie Pop for scale.The smartphone continues to play an increasingly important role in search and rescue with all manner of apps available to assist SAR members in the field. More than anything else, I use my phone for land navigation. In fact, unless the weather is really bad, I rarely pull my dedicated GPS out of my bag. With my phone I can easily enter waypoints, scroll around on a map, and even use a decent compass. Earlier, I've mentioned specific apps that are handy, as well as ways to keep your phone powered throughout multiple operational periods, but there still remains the problem of moving data on and off the phone outside of cellular networks, and with minimal client-side requirements. Sure, it is relatively easy to provide FTP access to some command post files, but that would require that end users understand how to FTP and have the proper software loaded. This is not easily accomplished when there is no cell coverage. Enter Piratebox.

Piratebox, and its fork LibraryBox, allow file sharing outside of any internet connection. LibraryBox is a fork of the Piratebox project, and has similar functionality. The differences primarily lie in the ability to upload. Piratebox has a provision for file uploading by others, while LibraryBox is a, primarily, one-way operation; there is no provision for upload. Since it would be nice to be able to easily collect things like GPS tracks from phones, I figured that the ability to upload files would be helpful. 

There are a handful of routers that are known to work with the Piratebox software, and I chose the TP-Link MR3040 because it comes with an integrated battery, and charges via a micro USB cable. To build your Piratebox, you flash the router with new firmware (OpenWRT) that has been modified to work with Piratebox, then install the Piratebox software. I won't replicate the directions here, but I followed them on the Piratebox site, and they worked fine.

I changed my Piratebox SSID to be "SAR-Files SBSAR"When you are finished, you are able to share any files on an attached thumb drive. People access the files by connecting to the wireless router (Connect just like you would any WiFi hotspot. This one won't have internet access, though.). Once they are connected, they will be redirected to a browser window that shows a place to view files, and a box to upload files.

Landing page with customized header image and textThe whole install and configuration took about 30 minutes. I did make a few modifications, however. I modified the landing page text to reflect the use in SAR, and I changed the header image. I used the instructions from this thread to accomplish this. I changed the default SSID to "SAR-Files SBSAR" and configured file uploads to go to a different directory using the instructions on this page. Since I didn't want just anybody accessing the files on the Piratebox, I also put a password on the WiFi access using these instructions.

My goal with this project is to make .GPX/.KML files for all search assignments available for download to searcher's phones. Also to be included are PDF maps and other documentation such as photos, track prints, etc. So, rather than getting an assignment, and spending time entering in waypoints and such, the searcher can quickly download his/her area to include on the mapping program on their phone (Backcountry Navigator, Locus, Gaia, etc). The command post would load up the flash drive with the files, plug it into the Piratebox, and set it on the check-in table for SAR members to access at their leisure. 

When the team returns, and has tracks and/or photos on their phones, they can connect to the Piratebox again, and upload their files. Later, the command post can pull the thumb drive and download all the files uploaded by the teams. Since everything is done with a web browser, no special software needs to be installed on the end-user's phone. This is key. Any solution that is designed to work outside of internet access, can't require a special app download since there will be no way to download the app without prior planning.

I have yet to try my Piratebox on an actual search, but it won't be long before the call arrives, and I will be able to give it a whirl. I will continue to update the links that I have found useful with this project at https://pinboard.in/u:jlehman/t:Piratebox. All of the links mentioned in this article are there. Drop me a line if you have any questions.

 

Sunday
Nov202016

Cima Evidence Search

Tuesday
Sep272016

Morongo Desert Run

It's almost time again for MBSAR's (Morongo Basin, Unit 218) annual fundraiser; the "Desert Run". This is our 37th year and the event takes place on the 1st weekend in October. The actual Run this year is on Saturday the 1st of October but MBSAR members will be preparing all week for this popular event. We have the whole weekend planned for your enjoyment!

There' will be affordable meals available along with off-road games such as a vehicle "teeter-totter" competition and an "articulation ramp". There'll also be some vendor sponsored off road exhibits at our "Base Camp". This a family event and not a race and all types of 4-wheel drive vehicles / ATV's / UTV's /  Dirt Bikes / "Buggies" & "Rat Rods" are encouraged to show up and participate. The event takes place on and around  the famous Means Dry Lake off Hwy 247 in the BLM Johnson Valley OHV Area.  Just think "King of the Hammers" but on a small, friendly & local level. So pack up for an off-road camping weekend and join in the fun!

The event is an off road course approximately 15 to 20 miles long and will have an "easy" and a slightly "harder" path (both clearly identified) for you to navigate around to 5 check points. We'll have MBSAR members serve as "rovers" & manning checkpoints to help keep you on course. This is a poker run so you'll play a fun & easy  game at each checkpoint to get a card which will formulate a poker hand. The course takes approximately 4 to 6 hours to complete. We have a trophy and cash for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers with the best hand.  In addition, you'll be given an entry ticket for a drawing held after the event with several dozen quality prizes to be given away. As if that wasn't enough, you'll also have an opportunity to enter into a cash prize drawing ("1/2 & 1/2") that has yielded upwards of $1,200.00 at past Desert Run events! 

You can register at the event on Friday, September 30th at our Base Camp or you can pre-register online at www.desertrun.org and get a $5 discount. We have a schedule of events and a Menu for the weekend in a flyer that's available at our website (www.desertrun.org)You can also visit us on Facebook: desert run - morongo basin search and rescue. Also, the flyer will provide you with any other information that you may want to know about the event. Or you can call Renee @ 951-203-6816 or Josh Lewis @ 760-275-8514. Thanks for your support of the Morongo Basin Search and Rescue Team. All profits go toward support and training of the Unit! 

Tuesday
Sep062016

Blue Cut Fire Area Closed For One Year Beginning Sept 3, 2016

The burn area of the Blue Cut Fire and some of the surroundings have been closed. Please check out the map, as the area closed is larger than the burn area. Click the map to download a PDF.

Download the Forest Order
Download the Map

Wednesday
Aug172016

Bluecut Fire Over 30,000 Acres

Fire information is available at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4962/

Monday
Jul182016

2016-2017 BMC Lecture Date Update

The formula for determining the lecture date for the Basic Mountaineering Course has changed. In the past it was held on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The new formula is to hold it on the weekend directly following the second Friday of November. Hence this year it will be held November 12 and 13. Please spread the word and mark your calendars. More details concerning signups will be distributed via email and online out as we get closer.

Tuesday
Jun072016

Heart Bar Cleanup June 2016

Thanks to those SAR members who donated their time to keep the Heart Bar training facility looking sharp. Thanks to Shannon Kovich for submitting this video.

HeartBar Cleanup 2016 from SBSAR on Vimeo.

Sunday
Apr242016

Rope Rescue Operator Class Graduates 14

SAR members representing West Valley SAR, Cave and Technical Rescue Team, San Gorgonio SAR, SB Mountain SAR, Morongo Basin SAR, and Wrightwood SAR completed the 2016 Rope Rescue Operators Course. Congratulations to the 14 rescuers as they continue to expand their responsibilities and continue to serve the citizens of San Bernardino County and the state.