Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Lives to save

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Mar 17/06) - Five years ago, Steven Jose set out for a routine snowmobile ride.

What he didn't realize was that his gas gauge was stuck on full. When his machine died half an hour outside of Fort Simpson, he spent eight hours walking back.

In the village he found a team of people getting ready to launch a search for him. Future rescue teams will be able to draw on the skills that Jose and six other participants gained during a week-long search and rescue training workshop.

Starting on Feb. 27, seven participants spent three days doing classroom work and one and a half days in the field with Mike Rarog, who's spent seven years in the North doing ground search and rescue with the military.

Rarog covered how to establish a search headquarters and co-ordinate with different organizations. It's important to make the best use of the resources and people available, said Rarog.

A planned search also decreases the chances of rescuers putting themselves at risk and becoming victims themselves, he said.

Rarog also showed participants a tool that he says has "changed the face of search and rescue."

A series of profiles have been developed to predict how different categories of people will behave when lost.

For instance, rescuers now know that children between the ages of one and three have no concept of being lost and will wander aimlessly. They will also travel through terrain that most people wouldn't enter.

"You'd be amazed at how accurate these general profiles are," said Rarog.

But more information is still needed to develop accurate profiles for people in the North, he said.

Many participants found the compass, GPS and map training very useful.

After spending most of his life in the bush, Steven Jose said he's never had a need for map skills. Now he knows how to use maps to direct other people and himself in case he is ever asked to search in a different community, said Jose.

Most of the skills were new for Edna Squirrel, who's never done something like this before. Squirrel said she took the course to gain experience.

The course ended with the search techniques being put to use outside.

Some of the practice searches were done at night.

After dark is the best time to conduct searches because people stop moving. Also, when a searcher only has a narrow beam of light, it focuses their attention and they might notice evidence, said Rarog.