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braindead0

S.A.R. Response times to emergency beacon deployment.

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Friend of mine just picked up a Garmin InReach..  He was telling another friend about the features of InReach and said that if they get into trouble while out hunting they should be able to get rescued quickly...  because according to him 'first responders have required response times'. 

That struck me as a bit...wrongish.  I don't have any first hand experience but I recall @Bob using a PLB and it took quite some time for them to get there.

And S.A.R. if I'm not mistaken tends to leverage a lot of volunteer manpower.

Seems to me that you can't really guarantee any sort of response time for wilderness rescue.... too many variables.

 

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I have never seen any references to any sort of response time requirement for SAR.  When I was considering a PLB or a sat phone I talked with a SAR unit commander in one of the larger counties in Nevada.  They cautioned that some rural counties cover a lot of ground with few resources and those units would allow for more than one pass of the PLB signal before they started to assemble for a search.

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That's my thinking.  In the case of InReach you have 2 way communication via iridium sat network with GEOS personnel.  That could hasten response as they'll know the situation better. However that would probably shorten any possible 'wait' time, maybe speed response if you can type out directions on the device or connected phone...

Hoping @desertdog gets around to seeing this, he should interesting info.

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It took about 4 hours for SAR to show up and they were very impressed that we had a SPOT personal locator beacon. They said it made their job so much easier and they were grateful that we were able to provide exact coordinates of our location. They asked me a lot of questions about it and wished everyone had one. They said they wished everyone they search for were as prepared for an emergency. I guess that made me feel a little better for being an idiot and not having what I needed to get myself out of there. 

If you're in Pershing County, good luck, they were not willing to do anything to help us out there, they told my wife "well, it's not too cold tonight" and they were not going to go out there. They were fully aware that two little kids were also stuck out there, but they didn't give a damn. Then SPOT called Washoe County who were there in about 4 hours even though it wasn't in their county. I was very grateful to Washoe County SAR. They didn't have to go out there, but they did. 

If I hadn't had my two young daughters with me, I would have just slept in the vehicle and waited until the next day and tried some more to get out, but they were scared. We had plenty of food and water to sustain us for at least 5 days, but I figured it might just be better to push the button and see how it worked since the kids were freaked out. 

I have since added on the "save our vehicle" feature to my spot where they claim they will go anywhere to get your vehicle unstuck or towed, so next time if I get stuck, I can just use that feature instead of wasting SAR's time. I also now carry more recovery gear such as the orange traction mats, three shovels, and a tow strap. I also have a real off road vehicle now, and with the crawl control, sand shouldn't be a problem. 

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This ain't gonna be short.  Hang on....

There are many types of SAR units, under many different organizations - Sheriff's Offices, State Troopers/Highway Patrol, military branches, Fire Department (more 'Rescue' than 'Search'), private SAR entities (big problem - most are ill-trained), Ski Patrol, Avalanche Patrol/Rescue and tons more. 

As far as response times go, there may be contractual obligations, but I'm not aware of statutory requirements.  There are probably a few reasons for that. 

First, each SAR mission is unique.  Terrain, weather, incident type, incident location and available resources all play a role in response time.  In addition, many civilian SAR teams have to be activated or requested by a lead agency - in my case a Sheriff's Office.  So some patrol deputy is going to respond to a "lost child" incident, and perhaps kick it up the chain to a sergeant, who kicks it over to whichever bureau/department oversees SAR.  Then down the SAR chain, ultimately resulting in a callout.  That's just one possible chain of events.

Second, because of the above, scene safety is paramount.  The same way the FD doesn't show up and just run inside a burning structure without first assessing the scene, no trained SAR team is going to run off and just start searching.  The ICS peeps (aka Overhead) need to figure out who turned out, what the mission is, the nature of the call, place last seen/last known position, get hold of some basics (comms, maps, tools, searchers, K9 teams, etc.), draw up some hasty plans, assemble and brief each search team, and send them out.

Often this sort of resource set is minimally in the pack of each team member, along with lots of other extraneous crap), and marked SO rigs will show up with even more goodies (generators, trailers, spare batteries, more comms gear, technical rescue gear, litters, lighting, etc). 

For the sheer basics, you need maybe some simple topo maps/USFS maps/etc, your basic SAR pack, comms gear, a search assignment, and that's about it.  Of course that can vary based on the incident.  For example, if a subject fell off a cliff and needed to be accessed by ropes, most of that stuff is out the window.  Me and the other technical rescue team peeps would be the main focus of the planning and operations stages, and then riggers and a rescue team lead would plan, build, and operate a rope system to get the subject.  But that goes into a whole different world.

By comparison, a Search and Recovery mission is very different, the Camp Fire was a thing unto itself, and mutual aid callouts are just an amazing thing (both good and bad).

PLB's are a special thing - most of those activations get to us via the USAF (through the SO), and we'll jump the minute the word comes down.  The USAF or other entity (forget the demarcation now) will check for a signal on the next orbit, but by then, a team may be well on the way or on scene.  Even if there is no subsequent sqwawk from the PLB, we'll at least go to the last transmitted coordinates and have a good look around (preferably with a good K9 team). 

Also - DO NOT EVER RELY ON an InReach/Spot/Nano/PLB.  NEVER.  I had an incident with my 1.5 year old DeLorme InReach 2 weekends ago that made it clear.

I was out hunting south of Doyle with my InReach in my pocket, turned on and tested.  I started at 0730 and got back to the truck about 1300HRS.  I looked at the InReach and it was 'off'.  No screen output, unresponsive to buttons, etc.  Put it on the charger in the truck and nada - not even the blinking "I'm charging!" light. 

The damn thing froze up.  When I got in cellular range, I called Garmin and the guy told me the 'soft reset' procedure - hold the 'X' button and the 'Down' arrow simultaneously for 60 seconds.  That fixed it, but I didn't know that trick.  If I had needed it and pushed the 'SOS' button, I have ZERO belief that it would have worked, and the Garmin tech confirmed that it would not have. 

 

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Good point Ed, and that's the reason I carry two different types of PLB's. Even then, I let my wife know exactly where I am heading in case things go south. 

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Thanks for the details Ed, fills in a lot of blanks.

As far as device reliability, I trust dedicated PLB's a lot more than InReach or Spot devices.  InReach and Spot are festooned with features, and they keep adding more... feature creep is the bane of reliability.  Simple PLB's rarely suffer from that, most of the features added/changed are packaging (water proof, smaller, floating..etc).   There is still the possibility of defects or failed components of course.  I have 2 acer PLB's, although when I need to get new batteries I'll be down to 1 while it's in...

As always, being prepared is key... we make mistakes and learn from them.  I'm sure many here remember the days when exploring meant you were on your own..period... at best a CB radio... maybe a HAM radio but nothing portable with any good power... and certainly not the plethora of HAM repeaters we have today.... 

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I've used Nano devices, issued by CA National Guard on some large mutual aid wilderness searches.  Those are probably the only device I'd really trust.  It's similar in size to an older InReach, but they are 'ruggedized' like you wouldn't believe.  The cases are even metal, not plastic.  The downside is that their battery life tends to be a bit on the short side (and they see a lot of abuse).  Still, if you ever can manage to get hands on one, consider it. 

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40 minutes ago, desertdog said:

I've used Nano devices, issued by CA National Guard on some large mutual aid wilderness searches.  Those are probably the only device I'd really trust.  It's similar in size to an older InReach, but they are 'ruggedized' like you wouldn't believe.  The cases are even metal, not plastic.  The downside is that their battery life tends to be a bit on the short side (and they see a lot of abuse).  Still, if you ever can manage to get hands on one, consider it. 

one of these? https://www.iridium.com/products/nal-research-shout-nano-personnel-tracker/

 

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16 hours ago, Bob said:

It took about 4 hours for SAR to show up and they were very impressed that we had a SPOT personal locator beacon. They said it made their job so much easier and they were grateful that we were able to provide exact coordinates of our location. They asked me a lot of questions about it and wished everyone had one. They said they wished everyone they search for were as prepared for an emergency. I guess that made me feel a little better for being an idiot and not having what I needed to get myself out of there. 

If you're in Pershing County, good luck, they were not willing to do anything to help us out there, they told my wife "well, it's not too cold tonight" and they were not going to go out there. They were fully aware that two little kids were also stuck out there, but they didn't give a damn. Then SPOT called Washoe County who were there in about 4 hours even though it wasn't in their county. I was very grateful to Washoe County SAR. They didn't have to go out there, but they did. 

If I hadn't had my two young daughters with me, I would have just slept in the vehicle and waited until the next day and tried some more to get out, but they were scared. We had plenty of food and water to sustain us for at least 5 days, but I figured it might just be better to push the button and see how it worked since the kids were freaked out. 

I have since added on the "save our vehicle" feature to my spot where they claim they will go anywhere to get your vehicle unstuck or towed, so next time if I get stuck, I can just use that feature instead of wasting SAR's time. I also now carry more recovery gear such as the orange traction mats, three shovels, and a tow strap. I also have a real off road vehicle now, and with the crawl control, sand shouldn't be a problem. 

Were you using a SPOT with 2 way comms?  If so, they could know your specific situation (if you tell them ;-).. and I wonder if that's what lead to the lack of response from Pershing county?  I don't know that they'd respond any differently to a simple emergency beacon where it could be someone bleeding out in the desert.... 

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1 minute ago, braindead0 said:

Wonder if they have any at Tri-City Surplus..  (if you haven't been there, you might want to check it out).

You mean Twin City Surplus?  Went under. 

When I was in Hawthorne in September, I stopped in at the Ordnance Museum and struck up a conversation with the curator.  The owner of TCS leased the business to a guy (who I also met a few years ago).  Didn't get a good vibe from him, and apparently he ran it into the ground.  Last I saw, there were some 40 yard dumpsters being filled with all the stuff in the 'outside' portion of the business.  The owner has no plans to re-open, but one of his kids or grandkids is kicking around the idea (he runs the container store across and down from TCS). 

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1 minute ago, desertdog said:

You mean Twin City Surplus?  Went under. 

When I was in Hawthorne in September, I stopped in at the Ordnance Museum and struck up a conversation with the curator.  The owner of TCS leased the business to a guy (who I also met a few years ago).  Didn't get a good vibe from him, and apparently he ran it into the ground.  Last I saw, there were some 40 yard dumpsters being filled with all the stuff in the 'outside' portion of the business.  The owner has no plans to re-open, but one of his kids or grandkids is kicking around the idea (he runs the container store across and down from TCS). 

Ooh, yeah.. twin city... sorta a bummer, but not surprising... we'd browse around a lot and rarely ever purchase anything...

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