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April 14, 2012 - Douglas County Snow and Ice Accreditation

Congratulation to the Douglas County Search and Rescue team in the successfully completion of their Snow and Ice accreditation test. Photo by Antonio M. Arizo.


On Sat April 14 Douglas County SAR tested in the Snow and Ice discipline at Echo Summit, El Dorado County, California, in the El Dorado National Forest at 7000 to 8000’ of elevation on a North aspect.

The scenario started with an informant contacting DCSSAR with limited information about two newly met friends overdue from a day trip into the mountains. The informant had GPS coordinates indicating the LKP. DCSSAR deployed 3 field teams.

Weather conditions the previous day were wind and snow with avalanche conditions at moderate with pockets of severe; temperatures were 28 – 38 degrees F (same conditions as the search day).

Both victims had moved from the LKP however from this location voice contact was made. Team one (from above) had a visual on the 2 victims and directed teams 2 and 3 to the victim’s location. One victim was hypothermic and the second victim had had mild hypothermia as well as a possible broken ankle and possible femur fracture.

Concurrently teams started treating victim #1 (Hypothermic); victim #2 (ankle and femur fracture); and setting up a rope system.

Victim #1 was put into a “Bothy” tent, warmed, given hot water from a jet boil, determined to be ambulatory then slowly moved down the hill; stopping frequently and placed in the Bothy tent.

Victim #2 was splinted, C-collared and placed in an “Oregon Spline Splint,” wrapped in a blanket and moisture barrier then packaged into a SKED.

The rope system consisted of 4 snow anchors (vertical Sierra pickets) set up as a load sharing lowering anchor. A guide line was attached to a higher BF Tree and extended to a lower BF Tree tensioned with a MA. A Scarab was used for the lowering friction device. The team leader was taken out of the scenario in order to evaluate the team’s depth of leadership; the transition of leadership was momentarily uncertain, but went well. During the lower, DCSSAR had to convert to a raising system for a 10 foot haul; then back to the lowering system. Once down, the victim was carried out to the road.

A separate avalanche search scenario involved 5 victims: the informant, a partially buried victim, 2 buried victims with beacons and a 5th victim without a beacon. The partially buried victim and the 2 buried victims with beacons were found within 4 minutes. The buried victim without a beacon was located within 40 minutes; the PLS of the buried victim was narrowed after subsequent interviews with the informant. This victim was found with a probe line in the debris field.

Things DCSSAR did well included:
• Snow travel, route finding, and avalanche assessment
• Treatment of the hypothermic victim #1 and the use of a Bothy tent and jet boil to improve the victim’s condition and render him ambulatory for the trip out
• Snow anchors
• Patient packaging
• Conversion from a lower to raise and back to a lowering system

Things the evaluators were critical of included:
• Avalanche search
• Avalanche RP interview and determining the PLS
• Avalanche look out
• Secondary assessment of a route out for a second pitch for the litter if needed
• Depth of leadership

Many thanks to evaluators and their teams:
• Antonio Arizo - Ventura
• Andy Puhek - Ventura
• Dan Land - Montrose
• Robert Rye - Marin
• John Chang - BAMRU (thanks to John for setting up the scenarios)
• Dan Hourihan - Guest evaluator

All evaluators reported passing marks for the accreditation.

Respectfully submitted,
Dan Land
Chief evaluator and Vice Chair of Cal Region MRA

View all of the Douglas County Accreditation photos

Teams hiking through the deep snow searching for the "subjects". Photo by Dan Land

Team members providing medical treatment. Photo by Dan Land

Team group shot. Photo by Antonio M. Arizo