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Let people know (where you're going)

Discussion related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:55 am

Cross Country wrote:Does anyone know what Medicare covers in this area?


Same thing every medical insurance covers - the medical services you receive, within the limits they have on your policy, whatever those are. A question for Medicare to answer, really.

In Fresno County that's a non-issue.



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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby fishinxj » Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:29 am

Great post and info! On our first Scout Venture outing we went over the proper permit filing so the Forest Service knows our plan. Then we gave a handwritten note to each mother (time consuming) explaining our hike destination. Next trip we'll do this in advance but the point was to reinforce the importance. We Also hammered them on always having the buddy system.....nobody got away :unibrow:

One couple things an SAR friend taught me, top off the gas tank at the last gas stop in case of a Forest Fire or other disaster. You never know which route you'll have to drive out of. Plus leave your route under the wiper blades.

Thanks for the great forum!

shane
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby East Side Hiker » Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:42 pm

This ties in with the "lost" hiker in Kings Canyon in a post below this one. It is critical that one leave someone an itinerary when they go into the backcountry.

The only problem is that many times people deviate from their itineraries. This makes it more difficult to search, but at least the searchers are int he ball park.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby gdurkee » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:45 pm

I finally got around to reading this thread -- excellent advice all around. I especially liked the xls for the detailed itinerary, the suggestion for radios for parties to talk to each other and the final itinerary on the dashboard (or maybe in an envelope on the seat with "Route" in big black letters -- might not want to let the car clouters know when you'll be back).

The walkie-talkie gizmos come in handy a lot. Parties who don't keep together easily get separated or pass each other without knowing it. With those things, at least we eliminate a number of the "I haven't seen my buddy in x hours" type reports. Even saved a guy's life once when one got sick, radioed the partner way, way ahead who came back and reported it to me. He was tanking from hypernatremia and was in seizures by the time I got there (drinking too much water, not enough electrolytes/food).

Seems like it'd be nice if the wilderness permit form had all those fields that you mention on it, and one could enter them, regardless of starting point. I only asked about SAR approaches because if someone might be looking for my party, I'd like to know what their general approach might be.


I think Sequoia Kings asks for the car license when getting a permit, though it probably doesn't always happen. In general, the order of battle for a SAR is:

1) Someone is reported overdue or injured.
2) Determine how accurate the report is. 2nd hand? Is the person actually overdue or just hasn't checked in as scheduled -- either using a SPOT or calling from a trailhead enroute.
3) What was the route? What was the weather, stream crossings etc. -- is there a reason the person could be behind schedule?
4) Any medical conditions that might amp up the seriousness of the report? (e.g. insulin dependent diabetic).
5) Experience level (that's never accurate -- relatives always report missing as "expert" but we always ask...).
6) Get as much preliminary information as possible as above to figure how many resources to put into the incident. Start focusing on route. What did they say? Who did they talk to? Emails to friends mentioning the route?
7) Somewhere in there, as it becomes more serious, a person is appointed Incident Command. This can still be pretty low-key, but there's now one person designated to run the operation and report information to.
8) Along the way, you're also trying to figure out the famed Point Last Seen (PLS). You need to start somewhere. At the beginning, it may be their home in Tennessee.
9) If it's still in no real cause-for-alarm stage, backcountry rangers are called and asked if they've seen the person &/or leave notes on trail signs to check in. Some areas have sign-in sheets and those are checked. Another fun SAR phrase: Last Known Point, if the person signed in, though wasn't seen.
10) If still no word, you start really amping up. Teams are called in, both locally (rangers) and if it's a large search area, the volunteer SAR teams are called in. An official request for them goes through the California Emergency Management Agency and you specify the experience level you need.
11) The Incident Command is ramped up. Someone is now likely responsible for Plans (figuring out where to search); Operations, Investigations, etc. Someone's buying food and other needed gear for the incoming teams. Another is starting to keep track of the geospatial information (PLS, route) and working with Plans to create search segments -- dividing the SAR perimeter up into small areas that can reasonably be searched by a team of 2 in a day.Team maps and briefing information with a photo and description are made to give to the incoming teams, post on trailheads etc.

You're first step in planning is to establish a search perimeter and search within that area. Sometimes it's based on how far you think a person can travel since PLS and you try to put people at that perimeter to keep an eye out for them or leave signs on trails to stay there and DON'T MOVE!

12) The Investigator is pulling in all the wilderness permits going back before the missing started the trip, looking up phone numbers, calling anyone who was in the area to find if they'd been seen. This is often successful. It's also important to note that negative information (no, didn't see them) is as important as a positive sighting.
13) You decide on which areas to search first based on what you think the probability is they'll be in a given area (segment). This is an art, though there's attempts to quantify it.

The real problem is that in most cases, someone is missing because they've done something totally unexpected -- usually a series of unexpected things. That's why they're overdue or even lost. You have to think like them and that's a problem... . Sometimes, they're in an area with an obvious terrain trap -- something that funnels people in like a roach motel (Tenaya Canyon is a classic. They get in but they can't get out).

The agency starts flying teams in and trying to search by air. If you're lucky, you have two helicopters -- one to ferry teams, one to search. You also need an experienced pilot and someone familiar with the terrain on board. It's really, really hard to pick out people from the air.

Even with a for-sure overdue and likely in trouble person (missed showing up for work, needs meds etc), it's usually a full day before the first teams are dropped off to begin a search.

14) With any luck at all, you start picking up clues as you go which help narrow and concentrate the search. Someone saw them on xx date at a lake. They said they were heading over there. Then you can at least start moving teams into that area.

15) Also with luck, the overdue person realizes they're lost or way overdue and are taking active steps to signal helicopters, get out in the open, get to a place where they'll find other people. If you're lost, it's best not to get more lost or risk injury. Get into the open and build a fire. Fire & smoke are pretty easy (kinda) to see from the air or even the ground. Four guys a few years back torched off a whole tree that was spotted a distance away (also, it was a safe tree to light -- it had been raining for days and the tree was on bare granite).

16) Part of the decision tree for the SAR is the likelihood of searching for someone who's responsive vs. someone who's not. The latter is obviously more difficult.

17) Most always, the person is found. And, most always, they're OK. But the next decision is how long to search. On average, I'd say ten days, in the absence of any clues, is what usually happens (I'm just going on a very loose guess). The problem is there are a LOT of incredible survival stories of people surviving long past what SAR people think they can do. There's some really grim stories out there of people not being found for years. Then the remains are found with signs (or even a diary) that they were alive for a long time.

So there you go. Whatever you can do to narrow down the search area in a worst case scenario is the ideal. I understand changing where you want to go but, if you're solo, you really have to weigh the risk both to yourself and the 100 or so people, helicopters etc. that are going to try to find you.

One more thing. This all looks really good on paper, but an actual major SAR is barely controlled chaos. The idea is to try to impose a kind of order on the search to cover the fact that the overdue person has done something likely random. You've got teams coming in from all over the region and state; you've got a large search area of gnarly terrain; you've got maybe 15+ people trying to organize it, feed these people, get them their needed equipment and get them out to the search area as fast as possible. And, oh yeah, you've got some poor guy with a family who's really worried about him. None of you have any real idea of where he is, only that he's not checked in or shown up at work.

What a bungathon. It's amazing we find anyone... .

George
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby BrianF » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:01 pm

Regarding George's #16, sometimes you have people who don't want to be found. In my SAR days we actually had a number of these - from runaways to dev. disabled who were frightened and hiding. One Runaway had us searching the San Rafael wilderness for a few days based only on what trailhead he was dropped off at and a very vague itinerary. We would have been days more if he hadn't been picked up by the cops for underage hitchhiking in Bakersfield.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby ndwoods » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:11 pm

Good thread.
I dispatch 911 and have handled numerous searches from that end. Don't want to be on the other end.:) But, in case I ever am, tho I have no electronics, just map and compass, I leave a detailed itinerary with my daughter INCLUDING several bailout options that I think I might use since most of my trips are off trail...
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby East Side Hiker » Tue May 15, 2012 6:10 pm

It is certainly a fact that one should let someone know their general travel plan.
The only problem is that, like me, people do deviate from their initial travel route. Usually it only requires only a day or two for a ranger to find the interested people.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby AlmostThere » Tue May 15, 2012 6:22 pm

East Side Hiker wrote:It is certainly a fact that one should let someone know their general travel plan.
The only problem is that, like me, people do deviate from their initial travel route. Usually it only requires only a day or two for a ranger to find the interested people.


Rangers aren't the folks doing the searches. Search teams often have rangers on them, but the vast majority of the time, searchers are volunteers gleaned from the population and not affiliated with the park or forest service.

We are still 11 years and counting trying to find one hunter - many of our searches go for 3-5 days and involve Jeep teams and the posse as well.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby East Side Hiker » Tue May 15, 2012 6:52 pm

I surely wasn't characterizing the "search" type. Most "searches" are only simple "ranger" searches. Searches that involve entire teams are somewhat rare.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby AlmostThere » Tue May 15, 2012 7:58 pm

East Side Hiker wrote:I surely wasn't characterizing the "search" type. Most "searches" are only simple "ranger" searches. Searches that involve entire teams are somewhat rare.


Which is why I get called out on mutual aids and we get 10-14 calls per year that are wilderness related?

The national parks have daily callouts. Yosemite gets 5-7 calls per day just for the Half Dome trail corridor that are medical. I listened to radio traffic on a single day of mutual aid searching that pretty much cinched that SAR activity is quite common - we lost the helicopter support to two other searches within a two hour span.

Not sure where you are, but it doesn't sound like where I am.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby gdurkee » Wed May 16, 2012 3:03 pm

Rangers aren't the folks doing the searches. Search teams often have rangers on them, but the vast majority of the time, searchers are volunteers gleaned from the population and not affiliated with the park or forest service.


Totally depends on the area being searched and how big the search is. In Yosemite and Sequoia Kings, NPS has exclusive jurisdiction and runs their own searches. At the beginning, it's usually just rangers and other NPS employees. As a SAR expands into multi-days, volunteer teams are brought in. They are requested through the California Emergency Management Agency and specified as to type (ground, technical, dog team etc). Often a specific known team is requested (e.g. Yosemite swift water). Cal EMA will only assign approved teams with the required training (e.g. Sierra Madre, Fresno etc.). Most every county has a volunteer SAR team run and sponsored by the County Sheriff's office.

If the SAR is on USFS or any other land, it's the responsibility of the County Sheriff. They usually start with their own county team and then call for more teams trhough Cal EMA as it expands. USFS rangers (a very loose term) are used, but they're not in charge.

g.
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Re: Let people know (where you're going)

Postby AlmostThere » Wed May 16, 2012 7:01 pm

Yes, the majority of the Yosemite search teams I've worked with are all park employees or DNC employees - the majority are still volunteers not getting paid for their time searching.

I'm with the Fresno Sheriff's team and we respond to all national forest and urban searches in our area.
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