Last month the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office recognized the outstanding achievements of Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers who give of their time so that others may survive.
Each year, volunteers are recognized for their outstanding contributions in Search and Rescue. In 2011 David McCracken, a Cameron Park resident, was honored as the Volunteer of the year.
McCracken joined Search and Rescue in 1993 and holds SAR ID number 52. He began his Search and Rescue career with the ground team and quickly began additional training becoming certified through Rescue 3 International as a Swift Water Technician 1 in 1997.
McCracken has taken it upon himself to increase his training and here are some of his accomplishments: Emergency Medical Technician; Basic Wildland Firefighting; Incident Command Systems; numerous FEMA courses; Emergency Response to Terrorism; Confined Space Rescue; River and Flood Rescue; First responder Hazardous Materials; Low Angle rescue; and Community Emergency Response Team trainer.
In 2004 McCracken traveled to Alabama in response to Hurricane Ivan with FEMA as a team leader assisting the citizens of Covington County. He was later recognized by the local Emergency Director for his “professional, friendly, and compassionate” interactions with the citizens of his county.
McCracken continued his trend in leadership taking on roles in El Dorado County Search and Rescue including past captain of the Swift Water Rescue Team and current vice president of the El Dorado Search and Rescue Council Board of Directors.
McCracken continues to promote events throughout the year that generate funds for the Search and Rescue team to include, providing emergency medical services at the El Dorado Hills Wine and Arts Event and the Coloma Blues Music Festival. He also organizes and volunteers along with many other Search and Rescue team members at community events such as the Kids Expo and the El Dorado County Fair.
Not only has McCracken established himself as an accomplished searcher, leader and trainer over the past 17 years, but most importantly he understands what it means to give back to his fellow team members and to his community in the true spirit of what it means to be a volunteer.
It is for these reasons that McCracken is being recognized and awarded the 2011 El Dorado County Search and Rescue Volunteer of the Year.
There are approximately 200 registered Search and Rescue volunteers throughout El Dorado County who are organized into teams and respond to searches county-wide and to mutual aid requests. In any given year, Search and Rescue volunteers in El Dorado County respond to 60 plus incidents involving more than 80 missing (lost) or injured persons.
Search and Rescue volunteers come from every corner of the county and from all walks of life and at a moments notice they will drop everything they are doing to respond to search for or rescue individuals lost or hurt who they don’t even know. Search and Rescue volunteers contribute their time, community spirit, dedication and commitment to saving lives.
Search and Rescue is made up of several teams which are necessary to bring a search or rescue to a successful conclusion.
Search Management Team — The search management team has three prime functions. First, it plans the search by defining the search area and deciding on tactics and necessary resources. Second, it manages the search by deploying and supervising resources. Third, it supports the search with logistics, communications, and the command post.
Search management personnel serve in one of several capacities: operations, planning, and logistics. Working together, these three functions ensure liaison with search units, document search operations, brief personnel, interview sources of information, maintain the status of situations, debrief teams, maintain communications, arrange transportation, and keep everybody dry, fed, and safe.
Mounted Team — The mounted team, formed in 1973, conducts search and rescue missions and other appointed functions. The chief advantages of horse and rider team of mounted searchers are greater mobility, better vision, higher load-bearing ability, and increased sensory resources from the animal itself. Members must own a horse or have one available at all times. They must also have a safe form of horse transport.
OHV Team — The four-wheel drive unit provides numerous services to Search and Rescue. OHV team members provide ground transportation of ground searchers to and from assigned areas, trail scouting, reconnaissance, transportation and set-up of radio repeater systems, transporting equipment and evacuation of search subjects.
Ground Team — The ground team is made up of highly trained and skilled foot searchers. The ground team goes out day and night and in any weather. Searchers may be assigned to cover miles of rough brushy terrain, or they may go to campsites interviewing campers. Sizes of teams for individual searches range from two to eight, and in no circumstances do searchers ever go alone. Each team has an assigned radio and a team leader.
Hiking and climbing in high altitudes with a full search pack is physically demanding and all foot searchers must be in top physical condition. Being prepared for all conditions is vital to the success of the ground team. The equipment list is extensive, however having the right equipment for the terrain and weather not only helps find lost subjects, but can save your life.
Canine Team — The Canine team is made up of members of the foot team that have trained and certified with their canine partners with specialties in trailing scent, area scent, cadaver scent, water scent, and weapons/article scent detection. The canine team is considered a highly trained and specialized unit of Search and Rescue and members of this team train extensively with their canine team members on a continuous basis to maintain their certification.
Cliff Team — The Cliff team is made up of members of the foot team. The Cliff Team performs rescues and extractions from locations inaccessible to other SAR resources. Cliff rescue is a technical specialty that requires knowledge and ongoing practice in using mechanical advantages to create rope systems for raising and/or lowering of rescue personnel and/or subjects in the high angle environment.
Swift Water — The swift water team is made up of members of the foot team. The swift water team conducts surface search and rescue operations on the rivers and waterways of El Dorado County. El Dorado County’s rivers have worldwide popularity among rafters, kayakers, and other recreational water users. Because of this, every season brings accidents, injuries, and fatalities that the swift water team responds to. The team also conducts swift water operations in conjunction with other search activity and supports other search and rescue and county resources. Swift water members work purely on the surface and do not engage in any diving activity, which is the sole province of the Sheriff’s Boating Unit and Dive Team.