Students take part in FUNSAR training
During the weekend a total of 21 students participated in the first half of a 48-hour Fundamentals of Search and Rescue (FUNSAR) training class held at the Momentive Employee Park. The second 24 hours required to complete the class will be held Feb. 2-3 at the Tyler County 4-H Campground.
Among participants were EMTs, paramedics, nurses, geologists, environmental specialists, computer technicians, mechanics, electricians and a veteran pilot. An additional teammate, an IMET meteorologist, will be joining the second weekend to finish her FUNSAR training.
“When we add them to the hundred-plus team members that are already trained, it makes for a very diversified search and rescue team,” said Tom Cooper, coordinator of the training exercise.
Areas covered in the course include basic land navigation, grid and route search skills, man tracking, knot tying, map reading, patient packaging, proper clothing and equipment and some fundamental medical and legal knowledge.
The first 12 hours were primarily spent inside, discussing important aspects of search and rescue, while the second 12 hours were spent outdoors learning land navigation and orienteering.
During the second session in February, the team will set up a night search exercise including a field command center with team-tracking capabilities. The trainees will behave as if a search is in progress while the command staff creates tasks and sends them on missions.
Upon return they will report probability of detection (POD) and based on that percentage they may send members back to cover areas again. According to Cooper, percentages play a large factor in determining the actions of a search and rescue team.
The students will complete the night exercise by spending the night in shelters they will build. In the morning they will take a written test to qualify them as Search and Rescue (SAR) Tech 3s. After a few months of special field training with the team, the new students will be given an eight-hour field test to qualify them as SAR Tech 2s. Cooper reported that the Tyler County’s Search and Rescue Team currently has at least 27 Tech 2s and three Tech 1s.
“We’re doing the FUNSAR class to provide the new students with skills necessary to help search for missing people,” said Connie Thuring, the team’s FUNSAR instructor.
Thuring has been an instructor for the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) for many years and has taught more than 150 students for the Tyler County team.
Tyler County Search and Rescue operates out of the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management under director Tom Cooper. The team was started in 1993 as the West Virginia’s first equestrian search and rescue team.
Cooper emphasized that the most important resource is volunteers. The team has volunteers from more than 20 counties from at least four states.
“Our team only goes in on searches when requested by Homeland Security or law enforcement.”
“We always assume the area is a crime scene until proven otherwise” said Cooper, adding that they are always looking for new team members and can always utilize volunteers.
The Office of Emergency Management is located on the top floor of the Tyler County Senior Center in Middlebourne. Visit the website at www.tylerwv.com.
Those interested in helping can contact Cooper through the following channels: email, Tjcooper @frontier.com; office phone, 304-758-5155; cell phone, 304-771-3674; and home phone, 304-337-9366.
“We can set them up with free training in nearly anything,” said Cooper.