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January 14, 2012 - Douglas County SAR Accreditation

Searcher using an ELT receiver to locate a simulated plane crash. Photo by Antonio M. Arizo

As the scenario played out additional information came into the CP to help and to complicate the search: Vehicle identification, and a text from Madelyn that they had seen a low flying aircraft about to crash – they were trying to follow (NFD). A call to the local airport indicated that no aircraft were overdue or missing. A later report from the Minden-Tahoe Airport revealed that a red Cessna airplane had left the airport and was missing; its last direction of travel was eastbound and no flight plan was filed (NFD). Another text from Marilyn stated that she had dropped off Lynda on Sunrise Pass Road and was continuing in the vehicle and still trying to locate the downed aircraft (NFD). Field teams had begun their assignments and the mobile command post (‘the Bomb’) had moved into the search area.

This was a difficult search area. The initial search area was 200 square miles in a region that was heavily used by ATV’s and 4-wheelers. There were tracks everywhere and people interviewed in the area had seen nothing. The CP requested helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to assist, but all were grounded....sorry. It was 1600 hours and there were no hits from the plane’s ELT, which was typical. The subject’s vehicle had not yet been located. By night- fall it was deemed that the ELT was bad...classic; a second ELT was planted at 2030 hours.
Activity was picking up and Lynda had been located; Marilyn’s vehicle had been located and DCSAR was now getting hits from the ELT. A tracking team was following tracks from Marilyn’s vehicle. At 2300 hours voice contact was made with Marilyn and the triangulation of the downed aircraft was narrowing.
Marilyn had fallen and was treated for a broken leg, packaged, and carried a quarter mile to the road. The downed aircraft was located. Finally done? Not quite; we needed a grid search to compare the field team’s POD with the actual POD. The field team estimated their POD at 70% and the actual POD was 92%, better than we thought.

Now for the search debrief and the evaluators debrief. All evaluators’ recommended a “pass.” The official board vote and confirmation will come at the next region meeting in May; however, congratulations are in order to DCSAR on a search(es) well done. DCSAR’s next accreditation is planned later this year in Snow & Ice.
All this was followed by an evaluator breakfast at 0130 at a smoky casino café. Evaluators John Chang, John Glabis, Andy Puhek, Antonio Arizo, Jim Frank, Cindy England and I discussed the accreditation and said goodbye until the big one. Having to leave early and missing from breakfast were evaluators Art Fortini, Larry Smith, and Jason Flesher.

View all of the Douglas County Accreditation photos