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Sunday
Mar072010

West Valley SAR and Cave & Tech Rescue Team Complete MRA Re-Accreditation

 The Cave & Technical Rescue Team and West Valley SAR spent the day Saturday re-accrediting with the Mountain Rescue Association. Each year, accredited teams in the California Region, must complete re-accreditation in one of three disciplines: Search & Tracking, Technical Rope, and Winter/Alpine. This year all teams completed the Search & Tracking exercise.

There are 19 fully-accredited MRA teams in California, so scheduling the tests is an exercise in organization. West Valley SAR and the Cave Team were on the same track. We began the day with an ELT search followed by a patient care scenario at the "crash site". The Cave Team's ELT plot from the day is shown below. For each team there were two evaluators. One evaluator accompanied the team in the field and the other evaluator assessed the command post crew.

View MRA ELT Plot in a larger map

The rest of the morning was spent on a grid search, where teams were scored on their technique and the number of items found.

After a quick lunch our search and tracking exercise began. We were given a bit of information on our missing hiker that included the last known point (LKP). Once we received this information we had to spool up the CP and deploy teams.


View Cave Search Map in a larger map

The Cave Team deployed a team to the LKP to cut for sign and a "hasty team" to quickly search high-probability trails. After these teams entered the field we were provided a shoeprint from our missing subject on a sheet of aluminum foil. This did not photograph well, so we sketched it and made it part of the paperwork for subsequent teams. We were able to email the sketch to field teams about the same time that they came across a possible print. The field team was able to snap a photo with a cell phone, and the CP was able to confirm that the track was, indeed, the missing person's. The direction of travel was established, and further resources were deployed. After nearly 2 hours from our briefing, we located our subject.

Under an awning to avoid the rain, the day ended with our evaluators reviewing our performance and offering suggestions as to our techniques and methods. Evaluators checked for medical techniques, command post protocol, tracking methods, and how field teams and managers responded to unexpected events. In all, it is a comprehensive evaluation, and one of the most beneficial exercises that our team does each year.

Having outside observers evaluate your performance as a team is key to maintaining your team's readiness. My team's proficiency has improved steadily since initiating the MRA accreditation process nearly 10 years ago. I would highly recommend it to other teams. Full accrediation is not a simple matter, but I guarantee that your team will improve as a result. If your team is interested in pursuing MRA accreditation, feel free to contact me at any time with questions.

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Reader Comments (2)

Not only does the MRA system provide great training opportunities, it is also a lot of fun and a way to see how SAR is performed by teams from all over the state.

March 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Micajah Truitt

Wish I could have been with you guys, but being an evaluator was a great experience. Always cool seeing how other teams operate.

March 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave Bullock

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