I don’t like Randy. He’s our 200-pound lead-filled dummy that we can practice lifting onto a litter and securing with webbing or tie-downs before transporting him to a waiting ambulance or helicopter. It’s an important simulation for our team, as conditions in real rescues are never neat and tidy, never easy, never quite textbook. Besides patient size, other variables such as desert weather, type of injury and ruggedness of terrain combine to make each one different and challenging. Search & Rescue is really just major problem-solving, often with a life at stake.
Our practice Friday was in getting a littered patient up a rocky ravine to the “ambulance.” It required ropes and pulleys (anchored to whatever juniper tree was handy) for safety back-up in the steepest parts, and constant communication with one another on the litter team as we’re trying to move a patient along while avoiding tripping and falling over the rocks and boulders strewn in our path. We all, including the patient, wore helmets; what does that tell you about the inherent danger of doing this?
Our practice Sunday took it to another level. We hauled Randy hundreds of feet up a 40-degree rock slope and then practiced getting him down to a waiting ambulance without anybody getting hurt. It required a complex arrangement of mainline rope and belay line, both with multiple pulleys and foolproof back-up systems in place, anchored to large boulders on the cliffside. All of us litter carriers were attached to the litter directly by our climbing harnesses, which carried the weight of the load while the haul team up top let us down in a controlled and careful way.
I’m beat. Three solid days of outdoor training, with wind constantly in your face and new skills stretching your mind, use a lot of physical and mental and emotional energy. It’s a good weariness, however, and I feel more prepared to help a rescue team if needed.