Eleven members, of the Sparwood Search and Rescue (SAR) Team recently completed live helicopter training, and not a moment too soon. “Due to this area, the use of helicopters in search and rescue missions is quite common,” says Ed Ehrler, Search and Rescue Manager. “We have done a little bit of ground school training and for safety’s sake we decided it was important to get our members trained in a live helicopter,” he says. Paid for by an Avalanche and winter training grant from Columbia Basin Trust, the helicopter was brought in. “We called in Hy- Ridge Helicopters, as they have been really good and taken the time to give us some ground training before,” says Ehrler.
Each of the members took turns loading gear into the running helicopter, then members were flown to the top of a mountain by Wilson Creek Draw. “Things change when the helicopter is running,” says Ehrler. “It was so valuable to have this experience. Team members also felt what it was like to be in a high wind environment, as the wind on the top of the mountain was really blowing that day. It is very beneficial to have this type of education, so when members respond to an actual call, the natural adrenaline one would experience isn’t so overwhelming,” says Ehrler.
Only one week after SAR members completed the helicopter training, teams responded to two incidents, both in which choppers were used. “Members noticed a huge improvement after having this training. It was quite advantageous,” says Ehrler.
Sparwood Search and Rescue would like to remind the public, that despite SAR capabilities, it is better to not have to respond to a call in the first place. Safety and awareness in the backcountry need to be priority number one.