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Search and Rescue RSS

How are rescue crews responding to storm rescue and recovery in Oklahoma?

After a slow start, the spring storm season finally kicked into high gear and Yankee 1 has been in the middle of it. From search and rescue following the Moore EF-5 tornado, to search and recovery after the flash floods caused by the El Reno EF-5. Crawling around in flood debris is not fun, but every family deserves the effort we put in to find missing loved ones. Once again the handy rescue tool has proven to be a valuable tool, this time doubling as a camp ax and hook to shift through flood debris.

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What have you found are the most useful tools in SAR?

Personal Protective Equipment, internally framed back packs and the Handy Rescue Tool. Yankee 1 is set up to be able to operate without vehicle support, much like a wilderness search and rescue team. This puts a premium on weight. If we can't carry it, we don't have it. First comes the protective equipment, helmets, eye protection, nomex suits, boots, gloves, respirators the things we need to keep our selves safe. Everything else has to find room in a pack or on a harness. Where ever possible we look for things that are A) lightweight but durable and B) able do multiple jobs. For example the Handy Rescue Tool®, it is light weight, strong, electrically insulated for safety and is an...

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How does your volunteer team get its funding?

For the most part Yankee 1 has funded itself out of the members own pockets. Though for hurricane Isaac other non-profits picked up the tab and we deployed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Isaac. Once on the coast we ran an aid station at an evacuation shelter during the storm and then went to work before the storm was even over doing emergency home repairs for at-risk persons. We didn't do any SAR work there, we are not a swift water rescue team.  Towards the end of our time on Gulf Coast we linked up with Team Rubicon in some of the worst hit parts of Louisiana. We have also had a couple of corporate sponsors like...

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What are the biggest challenges you face?

Without a doubt safety. Although not formally trained in structural collapse I've searched many damaged and destroyed homes and had first hand encounters with why Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) is considered to be among the most dangerous things a person can do. I've gone into houses and discovered active gas leaks, had nails bury themselves in my boots, been exposed to asbestos, molds, vermin and of course the threat of further collapse. The number and types of dangers are legion. As a result I stress things like the proper protective gear that meets US&R standards, immunizations and shots like tetanus and equipment that can both do the job that needs to be done without creating more risk to my...

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How did you become a SAR Leader?

The short and honest answer is by accident. When Joplin got hit by an EF-5 tornado I initially went up there to help a friend clear debris. However, AmeriCorps was asking for anyone who was a vet, who had been a firefighter, medical professional or involved in law enforcement to join the emergency search and rescue teams they were forming to help traditional rescue groups since so many people were missing. Since I was in the army and had spent some time on a volunteer fire department I answered the call. It changed the entire direction of my life. On my first day in Joplin they had reports of over 1500 missing people. Thankfully most of them turned out to...

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