Hundreds arrive at Sand Hollow for ‘Search and Rescue State Training Conference’

Utah Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau attends the Search and Rescue State Training Conference held at Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

SAND HOLLOW STATE PARK — The 2018 “Search and Rescue State Training Conference” brought hundreds of first responders together from more than a dozen counties across Utah and Arizona to take advantage of various rescue training exercises and allow the agencies an opportunity to share techniques, ideas and experience.

Wayne County Search and Rescue teams attend the Search and Rescue State Training Conference held at Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The two-day training event was in full swing Saturday and will continue into Sunday at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane. The event includes practical application drills comprised of ground operations, dive practices and mock rescues providing basic training to newer team members and allowing more seasoned rescuers an opportunity to brush up on their skills.

Search and rescue teams in Utah are run under the umbrella of county sheriff’s offices, and while some deputies serve on the search and rescue teams, a majority of the team members are volunteers.

“These guys here are all volunteers, so they come down to get the training on their own time, using their own dime,” Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis said.

Aside from training opportunities, an important benefit of the conference is collaboration, Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin said, adding that having so many search and rescue teams from counties throughout the state creates the perfect environment to exchange ideas and rescue techniques and to pass on what they’ve learned in past rescues that may help in a future rescue for another department.

“It’s also a great place to establish relationships and to get to know each other and each other’s capabilities, so when we are called to help another county, we can plug people right in because we know what their strengths are, as well as the different resources we have across the state,” Cashin said.

Rangers with the Utah State Parks attend the Search and Rescue State Training Conference held at Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Knowing where the equipment or specialized teams are across the state can be critical, particularly when time is of the essence, saving teams the trouble of having to call several different search and rescue programs to find a particular piece of equipment or capability.

“If I need an airboat, I know to call Utah County; if I need sonar, I know Wasatch County and Utah DPS have sonar, so I know those resources and I know where they are at,” Cashin said, adding that the same can be said for other agencies.

While one county may be strong in swift water rescue, for example, another county may not have the experience because those types of rescues are so rare in that particular area.

“If a program needs a swift water team, we’ve got that,” Cashin said. “If they need a high-angle team, we can send one.”

The weekend practice schedule featured ground rescue operations, including basic search and rescue training, where teams were presented with multiple situations to resolve, including searches using GPS, tracking, first aid, treating injuries, high-angle rope rescue training and instruction in wilderness emergency medicine, as well as extraction using utility task vehicles and helicopters.

Dive training involved underwater exercises simulating boat rescues, body and evidence recovery and diver safety, as well as an underwater presentation by the Utah State Parks dive team using a remote-operated vehicle to respond to an airplane that crashed into Sand Hollow Reservoir, with three trapped passengers, two adults and one infant, inside of the submerged aircraft.

Utah Department of Public Safety’s Aero Bureau attends the Search and Rescue State Training Conference held at Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The underwater recovery operation provided training in various skill sets, as well as the opportunity to use the remote-operated equipment in an unusual rescue scenario. Other underwater training included public safety diving, full face mask and dry suit diving, along with an in-water mass casualty coordinated by the Utah Department of Public Safety Dive Team.

Search and rescue divers for Washington County have to be certified divers, and dive instructors have to be certified by the Utah Department of Public Safety Dive Team.

Helicopter-based rescues are effective at extricating an individual from a remote location that is inaccessible from the ground, particularly when critical injuries are involved, and allow for a high level of emergency medical care while the injured is en route to the hospital.

Mock air rescue exercises included helicopter search and rescue scenarios facilitated by the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Aero Bureau, such as drills on helicopter safety, capabilities, short hauling, hot loading — loading a patient with the aircraft running and skid loading — when a patient is loaded or unloaded while the helicopter is partially hovering with either one or two skids or landing gear on the ground. Classic Air was also on hand to assist teams with various helicopter rescue scenarios.

Uintah County Search and Rescue teams attend the Search and Rescue State Training Conference at Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The Utah National Guard brought in a Black Hawk Helicopter and provided training on the capabilities of the helicopter, such as high-angle and hoisting demonstrations, as well as rigging up a Stokes basket for air-hauling a patient by helicopter.

Utah’s Sand Hollow State Park has provided the venue for the two-day statewide training conference for the past four years, serving as an excellent environment for multiple training exercises. Whether it’s diving, ground, sand dune or aerial rescue drills, the park facilitates them all.

“We really appreciate all that Sand Hollow does to provide the venue for us to come down here to train,” Curtis said.

Some of the county sheriff’s offices and search and rescue teams represented during Saturday’s training came from Iron, Sanpete, Tooele, Weber, Wasatch, Sevier, Wayne, Uintah and Washington counties, along with the Mohave County Search and Rescue teams from Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Other participants include members of the St. George Police Department, Utah Highway Patrol Public Safety Dive Team, Hurricane Valley Fire District, Intermountain Life Flight out of St. George, Classic Air out of Paige, Arizona, the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Aero Bureau, Utah National Guard and Sand Hollow State Park rangers.

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Lee Saunders September 24, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    This program is awesome. It is an honor to participate in an off-road program in January that contributes several thousand dollars to the S&R in Washington County.

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