Saving Lives in Freezing Temperatures

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RENO, Nev. - It's been a busy start to 2013 for members of Washoe County Search and Rescue. Cold temperatures have been a factor all winter.

“Since the beginning of this year we've been out in the cold on three different rescues where the emergency was brought on by the cold weather,” Sgt. Ralph Caldwell of the WCSO Search and Rescue Unit. “The people were experiencing what they thought would be a quick journey and ended up getting lost or stuck. With temperatures in the single digits it's very important we get people out of that environment, especially if they're not prepared for it.”

Those going out to enjoy the great outdoors should wear proper clothing made of material that wicks away moisture. It's also important to stay hydrated and make a plan before heading out.

“Tell people where you're going to go and when you're expected back,” Caldwell said. “Try and stick to that plan so in case something does go wrong we know where to start looking.”

While the Sierra is popular for all kinds of outdoor recreation, it's also vast terrain that can be difficult to navigate.

“You have snowmobilers, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, maybe it's their first time up for the season so they're not sure of what their physical abilities are or what equipment they might need,” Caldwell said. “They also might be unfamiliar with the terrain features and locations. It's easy to get turned around especially if there's a storm in the area, it reduces visibility and eliminates a lot of key landmarks. It's very easy to head down the wrong side of a mountain and end up in an unfamiliar valley miles away from your car or any type of road.”

Search and Rescue team members invest a lot of time in training. Saturday morning a group gathered at the WSCO training facility to learn about wilderness first aid and CPR.

“It's so important because these are going to be the first responders,” said Julie Munger, a trainer with Sierra Rescue. “They are very likely going to be the people that actually find somebody that's lost so it's important they know how to react in the first few minutes and then how to do the extended care while they're waiting for more help to arrive. These are all volunteers and they spend their time and money training here so it's really fortunate to have them in the community.”