Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Search and Rescue Training

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is your neighbors, friends, and co-workers - a collection of community volunteers that want themselves and their town to be prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster.

I am a member of Bedford, NH CERT and the Londonderry, NH ALERT (A Londonderry Emergency Response Team). Their missions are maintaining a trained, dedicated group of volunteers:
1)      Assist their communities and its public safety departments in times of need.
2)      Serve as a community source for education on emergency preparedness and prevention.
3)      Recruit and regularly train volunteer citizens.

Search and Rescue Training (SAR)
I have taken advantage of search and rescue training offered by both the Londonderry ALERT and Bedford CERT. The types of their search and rescue training I have been part of include:

  • Wilderness line search to locate missing persons or objects (SAR).
  • Orienteering – how to read and use a compass and/or map.
  • Red Cross Advanced First Aid certification including CPR, splints, bandaging and transporting patients.
  • Amateur Radio (Ham Radio Operators) within SAR.
 Below are briefs of the above selected CERT and ALERT training exercises, which blend the learned skills for SAR, map and compass, first aid, and ham radio communication.

Line Search and Rescue Training at Musquash Conservation Area, Londonderry, NH

Searches Prepared for a Winter Line Search

Under the general name of Line Search and Rescue training, the ALERT and CERT teams teaches and practices four general steps:

  1. Locate the victim using Line Search Method: Maintain a line of searchers arms-length apart. Walk straight ahead (as best in a wilderness environment). A person behind line guides line to maintain a straight line of search. Left and right end line searchers insure line is staying together. Move through assigned search area looking for signs of distress or hint of missing person or item. See Picture: Searchers Prepared for a Winter Line Search.
  2. Access the victim.
  3. Stabilize the victim by treating any life threatening injuries.
  4. Transport the victim to a safe area for professional assessment.

There is a safety dress inspection to be sure all line searchers are dressed appropriately for the condition of the environment. If someone is unequipped they cannot participate. For example, in winter weather a check is made to insure no cotton clothing is worn. No jeans are allowed. Best fabrics are polypropylene, silk or wicking fabrics on skin layer. Then layers of wool and fleece. Proper footwear, hydration and a snack are needed for an extensive excursion.

For this exercise a body (dummy) is placed within an area and the line search team assigned a section.  When the dummy is found, the team proceeds to provide first aid and then transports the “person” to a safe area.

First Aid Administered On-site

Training was at the Hickory Hill Road trailhead of the Musquash conservation area off High Range Rd. in Londonderry.  Map of Musquash Trails, Londonderry, NH

Orienteering Training by Londonderry NH ALERT at Beaver Brook Association, Hollis, NH

Our Beaver Brook Orienteering GPS Route

Getting a Compass Bearing

There is a Beaver Brook Orienteering Course laid out among the trails where a trainee can apply map and compass skills and off trail navigation.  Each attendee must bring their compass and GPS (if they have GPS), and print a copy of the trail maps and orienteering course.

The Londonderry ALERT conducted the training. We combined hiking with a few hours of navigation training with map and compass. We practiced how to read a map, determine a compass bearing, and how to follow that bearing to 9 different points through wooded areas identified on the orienteering map.

Amateur Radio – Ham Radio Operators

Both CERT and ALERT offer instruction in using hand operated radios.  Members practice their radio skills in the SAR exercises. Ham operators have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology, operating principles and regulations, demonstrated by passing an examination for a license to operate on radio frequencies known as the "Amateur Bands." 

These frequencies are allocated by the Federal Communications Commission for use by hams from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up into extremely high microwave frequencies.

Learn more about Amateur Radio at New Hampshire American Radio Relay League Section Web Site

Map and Compass Training

The UNH Cooperative Extension, provided a two hour class on compass and topographical maps. The presenter emphasized Map, Compass and Pacing, so, “you will know where you are.”
Pacing: We began the class by going outdoors.  The instructor used a measuring tape to lay out a 100 foot distance, and had each member of the class count their normal paces back and forth to get the average number of steps. He wanted us to “memorize forever”, that, in my case, 40 paces closely approximates 100 feet. The Lesson: In the woods with a map, knowing distance can be critical.

Maps: Here are a few map items discussed:
Compass tips:
  • Azimuth is 0 to 360 degrees.  Quadrant is 0 to 90 degrees.
  • Declination – in New Hampshire, magnetic North is 16 degrees west from true North.  Declination is zero degrees west side of the Great Lakes
  • The compass arrow is ALWAYS correct!
  • Box the arrow (north)
  • You can see about 100 feet in the woods of New Hampshire.  Sight on a rock or a tree.
  • Good to know measures:
    • 1 miles is 5,280 feet
    • 1 acre is 43,560 sq. ft. or approximately 208’ x 208’

Compass and Map References (One Page Briefs from Appalachian Mountain Club):

Search and Rescue Bedford CERT and Londonderry ALERT



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