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#296509 - 06/28/20 12:57 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
hikermor Offline
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Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7292
Loc: southern Cal
I would think that the flexibility of the gig economy, etc. will actually make it easier to volunteer. Most of us who were really active had work situations that were reasonably flexible.

College students were frequently able to respond, as well.

Many, if not most, operations were only a few hours long, and tended to occur on the weekends, especially late Sunday afternoon.
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#296513 - 06/30/20 02:40 AM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
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Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2884
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Agreed: obviously, flexibility is an essential ingredient. I guess I have to ask whether people who are "on call" for paying work can reasonably commit to being "on call" for SAR work. I don't know what the implications of economic instability and irregular employment might be. Can they afford all the gear? There is no employer to support them as they train and deploy. This is the trend, growing rapidly. But maybe I'm giving this too much weight.

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#296514 - 06/30/20 02:49 AM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
Phaedrus Offline
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Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2669
Loc: Big Sky Country
Virtually no "gig" workers get benefits, vacation time nor health insurance so doing SAR work would be risky unless the agency covers any accidents or injury.
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#296515 - 06/30/20 12:56 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
hikermor Offline
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Posts: 7292
Loc: southern Cal
When I worked SAR, injuries incurred while in service were covered, and rather completely, I might add. I suffered one mishap and my treatment was complete, thorough, and totally free.

I'll bet that was the norm....
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#296516 - 06/30/20 04:39 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
Phaedrus Offline
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Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2669
Loc: Big Sky Country
That makes sense, hopefully it's still that way.
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#296517 - 06/30/20 08:14 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: dougwalkabout]
hikermor Offline
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Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7292
Loc: southern Cal
You raise some legitimate concerns, but there are workarounds for nearly all those issues. Most SAR calls happen on the weekends, when most volunteers are free.

The typical SAR candidate already had some sort of experience in the outdoors, usually in the local area of operations, and had most of the required gear, which was primarily what you might need on a demanding weekend hike. Training, as well as operations, tended to occur on the weekends.

many of our members were college or high school students - flexible schedules. Many of us had jobs with some flexibility and/or understanding supervision that realized the brownie point and public appreciation our efforts garnered in the community.

For all kinds of reasons, not everyone could respond to every call. We had about 80 members on call. A typical operation would result in about 20, plus or minus, responding. Whatever the number, we had enough to get into the field and do some good.
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#296518 - 06/30/20 09:46 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: hikermor]
AKSAR Offline
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Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1185
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: hikermor
Don't cry too hard for the poor volunteer, SAR, or other specialty. I have experienced that the rewards and benefits of volunteering definitely outweigh the sacrifices.

Seems like we've had a similar debate in the past, for example the thread America's SAR is in a State of Emergency. Old timers like hikermor, based on their experiences back in the day, tend to take an overall upbeat view of the situation. Those currently active in SAR have a somewhat more mixed opinion of the situation. A lot of SAR folks I know would give you a much less rosy view of the situation than hikermor.

Full disclosure: Due to advancing age and changing priorities, I was already in the process of winding down my SAR involvement before COVID19 appeared. The virus has caused me to accelerate that process. Being in a high risk for infection demographic, I'm simply not willing to take on the added chance of catching the virus on a SAR mission.

There have always been risks one assumes with SAR. We do our best to minimize and mitigate those risks, but we still accept some level of personal risk. In some sense, COVID19 is just another risk one tries to mitigate as much a possible, but ultimately accepts as part of the job. However, what is different about COVID19, is that the risk is not only to the active SAR participant, but to their families and loved ones as well. Each responder needs to ask themselves "am I not only willing to risk getting infected myself, but am I also willing to risk bringing that infection home to my family?"

There are other, less obvious ways that COVID19 complicates the situation for SAR, in ways both large and small. For example SAR missions often originate and are run from a trailhead. But parking is often very limited at trailheads, and on a busy weekend is often full. Hence we've usually encouraged SAR team members to car pool when responding to missions. One suggested safety protocol that has been circulated suggests that unless you are responding with member of your household, you should drive separately. This will make an already challenging parking situation even more difficult. A small problem, but small problems add up.

Another issue is funding. SAR equipment and training is getting more complex and expensive all the time. Some volunteer teams are well endowed (in the financial sense), but many teams struggle to find enough money to remain viable. Money typically has come from some combination of government grants, sponsorship by businesses, and individual contribution. COVID19 is causing extreme financial distress for local and state governments. Many businesses are themselves struggling to survive in a time of lockdowns. And of course many individuals are finding it hard to even buy groceries and pay their rent, let alone contribute to their local SAR team. There is no doubt in my mind that funding issues related to the virus will have an impact on SAR teams in many areas.

The bottom line is, as usual, it depends. But clearly the world has changed from what it was back in the good old days of years past. For some SAR teams, in some areas, the impact of the virus might be manageable. However, I've talked to a number of dedicated SAR volunteers who are seriously questioning whether they are willing to continue their involvement during the pandemic. I've talked to others who while they plan to continue, they have serious questions about the practical problems the pandemic brings to volunteer SAR.

Personally, based on what I see now, I'm much less sanguine about the future of volunteer SAR than is hikermor. Opinions may differ.
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#296519 - 07/01/20 12:06 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
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Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3360
Loc: USA
I’m finding these “inside” perspectives on SAR very interesting.

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#296520 - 07/01/20 08:53 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7292
Loc: southern Cal
I was speaking of the benefits of volunteerism in general, not just for SAR, and perhaps the benefits loom larger with the passage of time than do the negatives.

I am hopeful that covid will not be issue in the future that it is now - what we need is a decent vaccine - NOW!! (or realistically, easrly next year, if things break just right)'

One factor that may be drying up the supply of willing volunteers is the diminishing middle class, along with their ability to pursue activities that do not pay well.

Obviously, it takes money and resources to run a reasonable SAR operation and the expense is growing continually. But the greatest asset for an organization is the skill, and ability of the membership, along with their familiarity of their operating area. Money cannot purchase those assets.

Still, those cavorting in the outdoors should realize that they should handle themselves properly. There is an inevitable time lag in response time, even in the best of circumstances. Prudent behavior is the best course of action.
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#296521 - 07/01/20 08:59 PM Re: Hikers, protective gear requirements, and SAR [Re: Michael2]
Phaedrus Offline
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Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2669
Loc: Big Sky Country
The need for SAR is greater than ever, too! My feeling from living in CdA, Idaho and Bozeman, MT is that every spot accessible to a human is full of folks from CA and WA, at least in the western half of the country. The proliferation of social media as well as tools like GPS has really opened up all the "secret" and "hidden" spots that used to just be used a few locals to the vast unwashed masses! grin
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