Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Inc. Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Inc.


December 2009

Don’t Be An….get to the Granlibakken Hut for the next general meeting of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team. 6:30pm, Monday, December 14th! And don’t forget about the Winter Sports Medicine Symposium at the Resort at Squaw Creek, Monday, December 7th.

Many, Many Thanks to Dave Polivy of Tahoe Mountain Sports. A few days ago Dave opened his Kings Beach store to local SAR, ski patrol, and other outdoor professionals for a pro-form shop-o-rama.  And what a time our credit cards had! I would be surprised if anyone walked out of there empty handed. That was very generous of Dave and will definitely get us out into the woods with the latest and greatest gear. My new Barryvox Pulse avalanche beacon was way overdue. Thanks again Dave.

Certain Things are better left alone. Especially certain things along Highway 95 on the outskirts of Pahrump, Nevada.

Other things should be shared. Stories should be shared. Songs and poems should be shared. Good wine, fresh food, and close friends should be shared. Beer, for instance, is always better when shared…when cold and shared. And sometimes really bad experiences should be shared. According to many research psychologists and emergency medical workers, oftentimes traumatic events need to be shared so that individuals experiencing the trauma do not end up with post traumatic stress disorder.

Granted we’re not in Anbar Province, but search and rescue volunteers can be exposed to incredible amounts of traumatic stress. This fact was brought home on November 14th, when TNSAR volunteers found the body of a local teenager who was killed in a motorcycle accident on the trails behind North Tahoe High School. I, for one, was not expecting to find a body. I was expecting to find a local kid, dressed inappropriately, lost and somewhat shaken up, and probably cold and hungry. Instead we were faced with the worst possible outcome; another local kid dead and gone, robbed of any chance to make his mark on the world; another local Mother left alone without her most cherished loved one. No, it ain’t Afghanistan but it’s traumatic enough. It’s downright terrifying. It wakes you up in the middle of the night with ice cold sweats. It carves indelible images into your brain that refuse to fade away. It sneaks up behind you and leaves you sobbing in the checkout isle at the local grocery store, tears running down your cheeks. Believe me, it’s traumatic and it will most likely happen to you if you continue to volunteer with a search and rescue organization.

That is why many psychologists and emergency medical workers (also Chaplains with Placer County Sheriffs Department) rely on something called Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to help people cope after exposure to traumatic events. CISM has three main components; defusing, debriefing, and follow-up. Defusing is usually done soon after the incident, before the exposed individual (that’s you) goes to sleep, and is a quick check-in to make sure the individual is aware of the psychological effects that may possibly be experienced. (In other words, you’re probably going to start crying in the check out isle of your local supermarket for no apparent reason, and that is a perfectly normal reaction to the stressful incident you just experienced). Debriefing is a more formal, structured check-in that is facilitated by stress management workers a few days after the incident. It is a group check-in for all individuals who were exposed to the stressful incident. It gives everyone a chance to tell their tale, to hear other tales, and to share the experience with trained facilitators. (So Dirk, you still crying in Safeway? Hey, so am I!) Follow up is conducted later still, after the debriefing, and is another informal check to make sure the stress is not still rearing its ugly head. (Nightmares? Yeah, me too but not as many as last week.) Does the process sound a bit fruity, a little too new-agey? Maybe too touchy-feely for you? Rough and tough search and rescue dude and dudettes don’t use kleenex? Yeah, good luck with that. See you in the check out isle.

CISM is an incredible process that will make you want to be a better search and rescue volunteer. It will make you want to work harder, work smarter, and work more efficiently to save someone lost in the woods. It’s what wakes you up in the middle of the night when the pager goes off. It’s not the shriek of the pager that gets you out of bed, it’s the hope that the missing person is found alive.

Watching for Wild Horses at Wild Horse Hotsprings

Somewhere South of Tonopah


The goal of TNSAR is to conduct fast and safe rescues, and to help educate the public on winter safety. If you would like to help TNSAR in this cause, please use the following PayPal donate link. Thanks!

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