Re: Lost Scout Drill?
Amick Robert (amick@SPOT.COLORADO.EDU)
Mon, 21 Oct 1996 14:05:03 -0600
On Mon, 21 Oct 1996, Paul H. Brown wrote:
> On Sat, 19 Oct 1996, David E Williams wrote:
> OK. What does the team do? Are there search techniques that work better
> than others? Things that work well when I have 50 searchers available that
> don't work when there are only 5?
Mountain Search and Rescue organizations typically will use two basic
search methods: The "scratch search" and the "line search."
1. The "Scratch Search"
The "quick response" technique involves a "scratch" search which means
that you take a small and fast team or teams to check the most likely
places where the person(s) might be found quickly based on the most
accurate information of where they were last seen and where they were
probably going to wind up. Two way radio communications are obviously
vital for such efforts to coordinate efforts and update information.
In this scenario two or more radio-equipped scratch teams would
then start from each end of the trail, work towards
the middle and check out hazardous areas such as rockslides, cliffs, etc.
and generally try to find the most logical place the hikers might be or
have strayed into; they may ask other hikers on the trail if they have
seen the individuals and if so, where/when, etc.
"Joe and Jim are freshman college students from the east coast. this is
their first time in a mountainous area. they decided to go hiking on the
mesa trail, which is well-marked and developed. They left at 5pm
from the trailhead, and should have reached the mesa parking lot by 7pm;
did not arrive; it is now dark and they are two hours overdue.
Their car is found at the parking lot next to the trailhead, and their
friends went to meet them at the other end of the trail. When they did
not show up, their friends called 9-1-1 and reported them overdue."
Important clues to ask about are:
Competence of hikers, age, health/physical condition; last known clothing;
survival supplies, food, water, flashlights, extra clothing, how much
experience do they have; are they familiar or unfamiliar with the area; is
this is their first trip on that trail or have they done it before? etc.
Sometimes, hikers miss a trail and wind up in another basin or valley
especially at night.
Other cases have found missing hikers at home while their friends and/or
family are out looking for them, because they missed a
trail, wound up in a different location, and hitchiked home. So it's
always good to check the unlikely places where they might turn up
unexpectedly. In this case, they had no way to contact their
friends/roommates since they were out looking for the "missing" hikers.
A good rule of thumb in search and rescue is to "expect the unexpected."
Often the most unlikely and improbable scenario will be the one that has
actually occurred so don't limit your thinking and "what-if"
So always try to get a family member or friend/roommate to stay at home in
case they turn up there or try to call.
2. The "line search"
If the "scratch teams" don't turn up any clues, then plan "B" involves
mounting a "line search" where many searchers line up shoulder to shoulder
(usually about 10 feet apart) and form a long line across a designated
search area, and literally search every square foot of the area for signs
of the victims. The area is "flagged" with surveyors tape to indicate it
has been searched and the "grid" is noted on the search team map at the
"incident command post." This obviously involves a very large effort by
rescue groups/organizations and is a "last resort" when all other
"scratch" efforts have been unsuccessful.
It is important to to note that in real situations, victims who are
children or mentally challenged may be more difficult to find because
they become fearful of the rescuers who are trying to help them. There
have been cases where the victims actually hid from rescuers because they
thought they were the "orange-coated meanies" coming to get them. This
makes the work of the line and scratch teams far more difficult. Often it
is necessary for searchers to search an area, then re-search it or look
backwards occasionally to see if the person is hiding in the trees.
It is also very important for the teams to use lights and whistles to make
their presence known, but to also frequently stop and all listen very
carefully for noises, calls for help, or to look for lights and signs of
For more information, the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG) in Boulder,
Colorado, has an excellent
book on Mountain Search and Rescue Techniques which can be obtained at
mountaineering/outdoor stores, or ordered directly from RMRG.
RMRG also has a web page accessible through web browsers such as infoseek.
The National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) is also a very good
resource to tap for all aspects of SAR and also has a web page.
Bob Amick, EMT-B Explorer Advisor, High Adventure Explorer Post 72,
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City