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!