Readying a response


November 17, 2022 | View PDF

Steve Liu

Volunteers from Eugene Mountain Rescue (EMR) were busy honing their technical skills at the Blue Pool on the upper McKenzie River last Saturday. It's an area where team members are frequently called to work with medical personnel needing safe access to injured hikers and swimmers, as well as providing the technical skills needed to operate along the steep cliff faces. Formed in 1968, EMR has provided Lane County with trained volunteer rescuers for emergencies in mountainous areas, steep terrain, or backcountry sites that require mountaineering proficiency to work safely. Our search and rescue missions involve lost and/or injured climbers, skiers, hikers, hunters, or downed aircraft victims.

Organizers say the Eugene Mountain Rescue's primary mission is to provide search and rescue personnel for situations requiring mountaineering skills on rock, glacier, snow, and steep terrain in support of the Lane County Sheriff's Office. They're part of a larger network of volunteer groups in the county, state, and nationwide that provide search and rescue services. They're also called to assist mountain rescue organizations from other counties in Oregon, or in other states if they need additional assistance.

Interested in joining EMR?

Joining Eugene Mountain Rescue is a competitive process. Successful candidates have a combination of general backcountry knowledge and technical skills. It's expected they already know basic skills like navigating with a map and compass, wilderness survival, and tying climbing knots. The EMR training program focuses on technical skills related to rope rescue systems, backcountry medicine, and search and rescue operations.

Both the training and response missions occur in steep, rugged, snowy, and remote terrain regardless of the weather. Successful team members need to possess skills to take care of themselves in these environments as team member safety is our top priority.

Qualified candidates must have ALL of the following skills:

* General backcountry knowledge: Able to navigate using map/compass and GPS, own proper clothing and equipment for travel, training, and survival in inclement weather in all seasons.

* Good fitness levels: Capable of carrying heavy loads in backcountry situations, and adequate fitness level to participate in strenuous activity, sometimes for long periods of time. Team members are expected to perform at the "arduous" level consistent with the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Firefighter Pack Test. This is a timed test of a 3-mile hike on level terrain in under 45 minutes. Packs must be carried during the test and will weigh 45 pounds or one-third of your body weight, whichever is less.

Steve Liu

Eugene Mountain Rescue volunteers had their first chance to familiarize themselves with an additional piece of equipment during last Saturday's training session. Recently purchased by Lane County, the new tripod functions as an aid when conducting a rescue at the edge of a vertical cliff face. By positioning a pulley a couple of feet above the surface of the recovery area, rescuers can now avoid having to make a difficult 90-degree transition maneuver when a line is at ground level.

* Climbing Knots: Capable of tying basic climbing knots- the Water Knot, Double Fisherman's, Prusik Knot, Figure 8 Follow Through, Alpine Butterfly, Münter Hitch, Bowline, and Clove Hitch.

Qualified candidates are also required to have basic skills in at least one technical area below:

* Rock climbing: Capable of climbing at least low 5th-class rock.

* Snow/glacier: Able to self-arrest, use crampons and ice axe properly, and be familiar with roped glacier travel.

* Ice climbing: Capable of climbing WI2 or AI2. Familiar with the use of ice protection methods, ice tools, and crampons.

* Rope rescue technician training: Certified Technical Rope Rescue Operations Level 1 (NFPA 1670)

The EMR is one of several volunteer teams that serve the Lane County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) Search and Rescue program. LCSO holds recruitment meetings for Search and Rescue 101 each fall, typically in October. Candidates for EMR will be selected from the Search and Rescue 101 class held January through April each year. Once the SAR 101 is completed, all team members must complete 30 hours of training a year, pass an annual fitness test, and maintain First Aid/CPR certification to remain eligible for Search and Rescue missions.

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