Have you ever been out in the back country and thought, “do I have everything I need in case of an emergency? “
I spend lot of time thinking about this exact scenario.
When I first started hiking, I picked up a few books to read that I thought would help introduce me into the back country in the best and safest way possible.
It wasn’t until I joined a volunteer search and rescue team here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that I truly knew what it would take for someone to rescue me. It was then I learned the amount of knowledge from the trails, to types of clothing, medical training, strength, patience, and emotional stability it would take.
Search and Rescue Volunteer Requirements
All teams are different and require different amounts of education and training. The team I volunteer on requires some certifications and knowledge of backcountry safety, gear, and first aid.
Always, some sort of medical knowledge such as Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder helps significantly in knowing how to use what you have to survive.
On any given rescue you will need to be able to hike at a decent pace while carrying at minimum a 30lb pack full of gear, food, and water. Strength plays a huge part in a rescue as you will be carrying a large pack as well as carrying the litter with a patient in it, usually weighing upwards of 200lbs.
Inside a Rescue
Here in the White Mountains we can see rescues on any given day and in any given conditions. We train for litter and patient packaging, avalanche rescues or recoveries, hasty searches for missing persons, as well as some technical terrain missions.
Also, Mount Washington is located here in New Hampshire and is known to be “Home of the World’s Worst Weather.” With having Mount Washington right in our backyard we are frequently training in some of the worst weather conditions imaginable. As a rescuer you must prepare for worst-case scenario.
Why Join Search and Rescue?
As an avid hiker, I was keen on wanting to help other hikers when in need in hopes of someday if I needed it, someone would be there to help me. Being injured in the backcountry where you are miles and many hours away from the nearest hospital or help it can make one feel incredibly vulnerable.
I have found in my time of being on many rescues as well as recoveries, that patients, family, and friends of the patient are so grateful to have so many who would give up going what they were doing to help come rescue them.
What to Expect on Search and Rescue
In my seven years volunteering on search and rescue I have seen many things. I have seen sprained ankles, open compound fractures of the lower extremities, fractured pelvises, hypothermia, lost or missing persons, young and old, and even death.
This can be one of the most emotional jobs one could have. You witness those in a vulnerable state, in pain, and often with friends.
Those suffer from hypothermia or a bad fall can be some of the hardest rescues. You are now dedicated to spending the next 4-8 hours trying to get this person back to their family. You have a lot of time to process while carrying a litter. As a rescuer, like most first responders, we debrief after any fatality or incident. This is a critical part of any mission, as we are all hikers or climbers ourselves.
After the Rescue
Once our job is done on the trail, we go back to our daily routines of full time jobs, adventuring outside, and spending time with friends and family. It’s always a good feeling to know that you have helped someone get out of the back country and closer to a hospital or home. This is why I do it!
Samantha Brady, Manager of Museum and Retail Operations for the Mount Washington Observatory and President of Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, can be found exploring the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Follow her on Instagram: @sambrady_adventures or read up on past adventures on her blog.