The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s Search & Rescue Team has recertified in snow and ice rescue.
The team traveled to June Lake, near Mammoth Lakes, last weekend to participate in training required for membership in the elite Mountain Rescue Association.
The training provides valuable techniques on how to handle backcountry winter rescues and mutual aid. Only about 100 search and rescue teams across the country qualify for membership in the MRA. Ben Stefanski, president of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue Team, said he is proud his team is one of them.
“Not a lot of teams have the honor of being a Mountain Rescue Association team, and we’re honored to have met their strict qualifications to recertify,” he said.
Over the past two months, team members have traveled to Mount Pinos and participated in four winter rescue classrooms and three field trainings.
“Older members honed their expert alpine rescue skills while ushering in a new generation of alpine rescuers,” Stefanski said.
During the testing period, Sheriff’s Search & Rescue Team members responded to a scenario in which a snowshoer was caught in an avalanche. Team members needed to travel safely to the subject’s location, search and probe for the subject’s beacon, begin medical care of the patient, and build sophisticated rope systems to raise and lower the patient to safety.
Santa Barbara County regularly receives winter snow, particularly on backcountry mountains such as Figueroa Mountain, Zaca Peak and McKinley Mountain. Teams may also be called out to serve as mutual aid to neighboring counties. In the past, the Sheriff’s Search & Rescue Team has been called out to assist with searches in Sequoia National Forest, Yosemite National Park and Colorado.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search Rescue team is made up of 28 volunteers including 25 licensed emergency medical technicians who are on call 24/7.
— Kelly Hoover is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.