March 2009

Demanding Accountability

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Southern Oregon Search & Rescue
Devoted Volunteers Putting Their Lives on the Line

By Ron Lee

GRANTS PASS, OR - The Oregon Search & Rescue (SAR), based in Merlin, Oregon, recently held their annual certification training. Many attended to learn the basic principles of survival, searching and land navigation, while others attended to become full-blown active SAR members. Those 18 individuals were sworn-in by Sheriff Gil Gilbertson on March 6, 2009, and they join a very devoted and lively bunch, who all take their responsibility with sincere seriousness.

According to the Josephine County Search & Rescue web site:

"The Josephine County Sheriff's Patrol Search & Rescue was incorporated as a legal unit in March of 1967. This all volunteer, not-for-profit, non-political organization is not funded by any agency or county general fund dollars.

The Sheriff is responsible for every search in Josephine County, as provided under ORS 401, therefore, every active member of this organization is deputized. Subsequently, only those of high moral standards and driven to help others are accepted.

Each active member has their own personal equipment with additions provided by the organization. Members of this organization are represented from all walks of life; willing to go on-call whenever needed, day or night. Josephine County Search & Rescue is an all-weather, versatile unit, equipped with everything needed to conduct a well organized search. The individuals have proven themselves available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at no cost to the county.

In addition to active duty members, Search & Rescue has specialty teams for specialized rescue situations. These teams include: the Swiftwater Rescue Team, Dive Team, Mountain Rescue Team and Confined Space/Technical Rescue Team.

Every Member of the Josephine County Sheriff’s SEARCH & RESCUE Division must meet certain standards and training to ensure a safe and successful search and/or rescue. The standards are developed and maintained by the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA). These certification standards are the minimum which meet state requirements of the Office of Emergency Management and still allow the flexibility for the specific needs or conditions in which our ground personnel operate. The OSSA certification standards are the minimum standards for SAR personnel who will be involved in the field with ground SAR operations as well."

The Josephine County SAR will be hosting the summer California Oregon Search and Rescue (COSAR) exercise from June 11th-14th. Each year a new participating county hosts the event. COSAR was created to better integrate surrounding counties in the event of a muli-county search. As stated on the SAR blog:

"These summer exercises challenge our technical search skills by providing realistic problem solving opportunities using teams integrated from the 8 participating counties. The results of the search exercises and training modules are thoroughly analyzed after the fact to identify and remedy any practical problems encountered under field conditions. Each debriefing improves the integration among the county SAR units which increases the probability of actual successful search and rescue outcomes."

The COSAR event is an important training exercise that, unfortunately, comes at a cost to the hosting county's SAR unit.

The US~Observer would like to extend our deepest gratitude to these selfless and devoted individuals with SAR and suggest you make your contribution today to this worthy cause. You never know when it will be you, or your loved one, needing SAR. To find out how you can help, call Josephine County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue at (541) 955-5552 and leave a message. They'll call you back. Or, you can send your contributions to: P.O. Box 814, Grants Pass, OR 97528

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