OAKLAND — With procedures and agreements in place, the Garrett County Search and Rescue Team was introduced to the county commissioners Monday.
John Frank, director of advanced level emergency management for Garrett County Emergency Services, presented the SAR team at the commissioners’ meeting and outlined its role.
“The Search and Rescue Team — Company Six — is actually for ground searches to where you need trained individuals for adverse terrain, rocky terrain, steep terrain. They may possibly search at night,” Frank said.
Searches may be complicated by the lost person, who may have medical problems or have mental issues — like Alzheimer’s — that may prevent them from realizing that they’re lost, or may prompt them to hide from their rescuers, Frank said.
“This has been a long time coming for Special Operations,” Frank said, as the search team officially is now a part of the Special Operations Teams in Garrett County. Special Operations falls under the coordination of Emergency Management and the emergency operations plan, he said.
The team has been operating for years, but began heading toward a formalized status this summer, with agreements needed among the county’s 11 fire companies and four emergency medical services. As an official team, it also will be easier to dispatch its members for mutual aid in incidents outside Garrett County, Frank said.
Membership in the team requires the approval of the chief of the applicant’s department, Frank said, as well as extensive training in areas such as land navigation. The basic search and rescue training requires 16 hours, but many in the group have trained for more than 80 hours.
Although it’s the latest addition to the Special Operations Teams, search-and-rescue members are no strangers to interdepartmental cooperation.
The Swiftwater Rescue Team has approximately 25 members hailing from several departments, while the Hazmat Team has 28 technicians throughout the county.
Outside of the teams, departments have their own specialized equipment and trained members that can be made available county-wide.
The Deep Creek and Deer Park departments coordinate a dive team that has membership from other fire companies, so 30 certified divers can respond to emergencies. The Eastern Garrett department has a relief truck that can be brought to the scene of large incidents to offer food and drink to firefighters. And numerous companies have purchased specialized equipment, rope gear, boats and all-terrain vehicles, Frank said.
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