Saturday, October 31, 2015

SAREX 2015 - Annual Meeting of California SAR Teams

By Andew Axley, Eszter Tompos

SAREX is an annual Search and Rescue exercise/training camp hosted by Cal-OES. Teams from all over the state come together to take classes, network and build community. For most of us it's a unique opportunity to compare notes with a variety of other teams and learn about the bigger picture of SAR practices in California. 

This year the event took place in Plasse’s Resort near Kirkwood CA, giving all the participants a chance to train in some challenging conditions that we often have to search in: the Sierra mountains at 7,300ft with smoke choked air from the summer’s devastating fires. BAMRU was not only in attendance for training, but also sent an instructor, Matt Jacobs. He presented on the search management software he’s developed, SARTopo, as well as his enlightening work developing data driven search tactics.


SAREX classes varied in topic from a mantracking course from an expert in the field, Fernando Moreira, to a behind the scenes view of how Cal-OES operates. Another well attended highlight of the weekend was the Air-Ops trainings. Helicopters are increasingly used for searching from the air, transporting searchers to and from remote assignments, and of course extracting those who need to be rescued. Having a chance to work in and around helicopters without the intensity of an actual emergency is important to making sure that searchers can operate in and alongside helicopters safely in the field. After a safety briefing, participants were given a chance to be hoisted and then transported in a Black Hawk helicopter.


Aside from the trainings, SAREX is an event where volunteers from many different counties can catch up with old friends and make new ones. Sometimes that means sharing tips on how to best tie a knot, other times it may mean dancing late into the night at a camp site bedecked with a giant disco ball. The better we all know each other, the more effectively we can work together the next time we meet at a search!

Monday, August 24, 2015

How BAMRU Weekend Warriors Build Their Mountain Sense

by Chris Kantarjiev

Most of BAMRU's trainings are big - 15-20 students and associated
instructors converge on an area and concentrate on sharpening skills in
a very focused and structured way. But another key part of our training
is the "Small Alpine Training Series", in which teams of 4-8 people
spend a weekend in high alpine terrain, practicing a wide range of
skills in the backcountry in a more unstructured way - but one that is
more like what we expect to experience on a backcountry search.


These are typically organized by a Trainee in concert with one of our
full Members; the Trainee is responsible for proposing the agenda,
recruiting attendees, acquiring the permit, planning the route and
activities, and managing logistics. Everyone on the team takes part in
the planning and execution - figuring out what skills to practice (or
get signoffs in), sharing gear, planning for food and water, and
managing comms, medical, navigation, and any required technical gear.


Unlike our regular training schedule, the Small Alpine schedule ebbs and
flows through the year as people's availability does. On a recent
weekend, we had two! One team visited the Yosemite backcountry,
executing a technical ascent of Starr King and an overnight bushwack.
The other team visited the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, practicing map and
compass navigation off trail through dense woods while covering a good
bit of ground and the non-technical Three Sisters peak.


These small trainings give us a chance to better know our teammates and
how they operate in a small team and in the backcountry, as well as
swapping gear ideas and BAMRU lore.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BAMRU at Western States Endurance Run

This year BAMRU continued the tradition of staffing a team for the medical aid station at mile 85 of the Western States Endurance Run. Seven members volunteered to stay up all night to help ensure the safety and well being of the runners who had made it to that point of one of the most difficult 100 mile courses in the country.

The runners start in Squaw Valley, California and have a 30 hour cut off time to make it the grueling 100.2 miles to Placer High School in Auburn. Some years snow has altered the course, but this year heat was one of the main obstacles. Some of the valleys reached over 100 degrees on race day.

BAMRU's medical crew was responsible for assessing each runner as they passed through the station to make sure they weren't showing signs of what can be dangerous electrolyte imbalances. In addition, we also did a lot of shoe patching, blister care and basic first aid. We were prepared to run up or down the trail to assist any runner in need of aid and even prepared to perform carry outs or evacuations that required the use of our litter and wheel. Fortunately, none of the runners needed this kind of assistance.

We had a great night, met some wonderful volunteers and were inspired by the perseverance and endurance of the runners.

Photos courtesy of Chris Seffens and Ben Yaffe:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Training to be Spiderman

by Tyler Phelan

During the weekend of June 20th, BAMRU hosted its annual Personal Rock Skills course, this year, led by Tyler Phelan. The course was held near Indian Springs campground, about 25 minutes west of Truckee, CA. 

Participants rotated through 6 skills stations on Saturday including: rappelling; ascending a rope using Purcell prussics; anchor building; escaping the belay; knot passing while rappelling and ascending, and finally, skills involved in working effectively around the Edge of a cliff as the Edge attendant. This year the time spent at each station was increased to enable more practice. 

Saturday evening attendees participated in a fantastic night scenario designed by Thom Dedecko and Blake Gleason. The scenario included three missing people with varying injuries and locations. As always, a lot was learned and it was one of the highlights of the weekend!

The weekend was capped with a fun Ropes Course on Sunday, led by Lyndsey Chromik and Adam Garcia. The goal of the course was to practice the skills learned on Saturday, and provide the flexibility for participants to focus on any area they wanted. Adam and Lyndsey had the great idea of making the skills practice into a game of bingo and had delicious prizes for the winners--nice work! 

We already looking forward to Personal Rock Skills 2016! Hope to see you all there!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Trainees and Field Member, BAMRU Class of 2015

They suffered through rain, hail and gale, they suffered through poison oak, silly exercises, mock searches, night forays, a lengthy application and an intimidating interview process. Yet they stuck around uncomplaining, eager, helpful, gracious, enthusiastic, ready to put their outdoor skills to good use via Search and Rescue.

We are therefore proud to announce our new trainees:

  • Andrew Axley
  • Brooke Ezra Torf-Fulton
  • Tommy Ingulfsen
  • Natalie Larsen
  • Stefan Prost
  • Simone Schubert
  • Cara Silver

Every spring we select the best of the best to join our ranks. Trainee hopefuls have to attend two meetings and two guest friendly trainings including our SAR Basic weekend, they need to have acquired appropriate medical certifications and come with an extensive outdoor resume. This year we were fortunate to have seasoned SAR professionals from Sierra Madre and New Zealand join us as well. Welcome ALL!!!

But wait, there is more!
We are also over the moon about the promotion of Lindsay Chromik to full fledged Field Member of BAMRU.  Lindsay is a power house, a tour de force, SAR Wonder Woman. Accumulating the most participation hours of all members for the last couple of years, she is there everywhere, all the time, organizing, running things, planning things, generally making things happen. Promotion to field member is proud achievement for all of us, it takes much dedication, hard work and persistence. Congratulations Lindsay!!!!