Arizona author Annemarie Eveland has received a daunting range of training over the years — but arguably no class was as quickly put to use as the First Aid/CPR/AED lessons received through her volunteering with Tonto Rim Search And Rescue (TRSAR).
I never thought I would be using those skills so soon after the class! I was helping a Valley friend who was on dialysis. After I cut his hair and stood him up — he stepped forward, lost his balance and slipped, crashing down on his back and striking his head with a loud thud.
Training kicked in, and I instantly assessed: no response to my shaking and shouting, no breathing, no pulse … unfocused eyes. I called 911, started CPR and before the paramedics got there, he was revived, breathing normally and focused. That experience gave me such a reassuring feeling to know that CPR was instinctive, I didn’t stop to analyze beforehand — and I attribute my instinctive actions to the fine training I got from TRSAR First Aid Trainer Dave Burkhart.
Get involved, get trained
Search and Rescue Academy training sessions repeat throughout the year, offered in partnership with Gila County Sheriff’s Office staff and local volunteers affiliated with TRSAR, North Gila County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and an array of first responders throughout Rim Country.
Wondering if you’d benefit from a weekend immersion in emergency response procedures? Eveland shared these thoughts from her TRSAR Academy weekend:
This is an overview of taking care of ourselves when we must be out in the wilderness and overnight — from an essential pack to carry, water purification, shelter, food, clothing, fire — and guarding against hypothermia. Essentials that everyone here in Rim Country should be familiar with to be prepared for unexpected emergencies.
We memorized the acronym ‘SOAP’: the “S” is for “is the scene safe now?” The “O “stands for ‘obtain info’ from the subject; “A” reminds us to assess the patient and “P” stands for ‘take patient’s history.’ These are essential details to know and be able to repeat before calling 911 or Incident Command for a transport or medical assistance.
We learned to read symbols on a map and navigate Rim Country terrain using map symbols and a compass. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I was surprised to learn there’s a difference between “True North’”and “Magnetic North” and how to adjust by 10 degrees with your compass bearing. Our instructor demonstrated the amazing GAIA GPS app that you can upload onto your ‘smarter-than-you phone’ — and it is truly incredible. There’s a learning curve, but I’m determined — and who knows, this way-finding tool could save my own life sometime, or help me back home safely.
Finding lost subjects by tracking their shoe imprints is another way Search and Rescue teams find lost people. There is a fine art to tracking, and little hints were given on how to record, track and notice changes in the foot impression, disturbed environment discarded objects — e.g., if the subject was stepping with a toe dig (front of shoe was pushing into the dirt meaning forward climbing); whether sole imprints appear to be weaving — whether the stride is getting shorter, indicating fatigue.
I was intrigued by this presentation teaching correct ways to help a pilot make a safe landing, from choosing an LZ (landing zone), to other sensible and essential safety protocols, such simple things as don’t aim your flashlight into the pilot’s eyes; hold onto your hat — and that it makes sense to crouch down, shield your eyes from flying dust and debris — and how to communicate with the helicopter crew. These teams are highly sophisticated in their equipment and training.
Rim residents are fortunate we have a team trained to handle fast running waters. I went on one swift water training and my admiration for those volunteers escalated. There are additional skills needed here to be certified. And they have lots of equipment to haul as they head out for the rushing waters.
Remote-controlled drones can be flown over inaccessible areas to find a lost or injured subject, determine health or status, even deliver medicine to the injured or incapacitated. A skilled drone pilot can definitely be a Search and Rescue asset.
Mule and equine team
If you are as stubborn — or sturdy — as a mule, here’s another Search and Rescue option. Training I attended taught us how to pack a mule, so the animal is balanced. Mules can help bring out injured people from canyons and help haul them up on the litter board that rests on a big wheel that makes it easier to haul subjects up the trail. It immensely helps to take a burden of weight off the shoulders of volunteer rescuers.
If what I have described so far is not enough to whet one’s adventurous spirit, there is always the specialty of canyoneering rescue training — the team that brings wilderness First Aid down into remote, steep-walled canyons to subjects in distress and works with helicopter rescue recoveries.
Why join Tonto Search and Rescue?
I always admired people willing to go out and help others in the wilderness. I have a deep connection and love of the outdoors. When I heard some of the compliments and gratitude from those rescued by TRSAR, I thought, “These are my kind of people.”
In recapping rescue missions, you won’t hear them boasting or prideful. Their courage and commitment come from a sincere desire to be of service to our fellow humans. And there is a natural cooperative attitude among TRSAR members as they work together to help others. I like that immensely.
At the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Academy, the leaders of each aspect of search and rescue presented an overview of what their teams do and what is required from those when they are certified. It was especially helpful for us attendees to hear information presented in a straightforward down-to-earth manner with not too much unfamiliar jargon used.
In the two full days of training we covered an overview of how all services fit with each other. We learned about radio procedure protocol.
I plan to continue training, training, training and then practice, practice, practice.
I hope to be certified in navigation, tracking, first aid and maybe ropes.
If I was stranded in the mountains or injured in the wilderness, I cannot think of a better crew to rescue me.
I saw that T-Shirt that says: “Support Search & Rescue GET LOST” (I would add We will find you!).
Regarding my experience at the TRSAR Academy — I cannot say enough or offer adequate thanks for the training. It was presented in a professional manner and with a big heart. It felt like a caring helpful band of humans that have an earnest desire to alleviate the suffering in tragedy and done in a very practical way. I learned a great deal and I heartily recommend it to anyone that wants an understanding of all the aspects of search and rescue. You will come away with a greater appreciation of this valuable organization called Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, and who knows, maybe I will have the joy of welcoming you as a new member too.
About the author
Annemarie Eveland has written five books; owned a catering service, Le Picnic; worked as resort social director; owned and operated Pine Haven Bed and Breakfast; and is an ordained minister.