Search and rescue aids snowmobiler with ‘octopus’

LOCAL SEARCH and rescue (SAR) members got the chance to use a new piece of equipment while on a call for help earlier this month.

DWAYNE SHEPPARD of Terrace Search and Rescue does a training session with the new Personal Heatpac

LOCAL SEARCH and rescue (SAR) members got the chance to use a new piece of equipment while on a call for help earlier this month.

Terrace SAR used its new Personal Heatpac, nicknamed the “octopus,” to keep an injured snowmobiler warm so he could be taken to hospital after SAR was called by the RCMP at 2:40 p.m. Feb. 12.

SAR was contacted after a distress call came in from a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, said SAR president Dwayne Sheppard.

Once activated, SPOT acquires its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and sends that location along with a distress message to a GEOS International Emergency Response Centre every five minutes until cancelled.

The Emergency Response Centre in Texas notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on location and personal information; in  Western Canada, this centre is the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Victoria,  B.C.

The local police were notified and the responsibility of the call gets handed over to local search and rescue.

“When we receive a call like this, we did not know if it was a medical emergency, mechanical breakdown or someone buried in an avalanche,” said Sheppard.

“When we respond to this type of call, we have to prepare for every scenario, this equates to a lot of safety and medical equipment. By contacting the family, we can determine if the subject is skiing or snowmobiling but cannot determine the nature of any injuries.”

The family of the snowmobiler sent a private helicopter to the scene and it was able to relay vital information that he had fractured his lower leg, said Sheppard.

After receiving this information, Terrace SAR dispatched an additional helicopter with an avalanche technician and two SAR members to provide medical services.

“One of the primary pieces of medical equipment we carried was the new Personal Heatpac, recently purchased by the team with a private donation from a Terrace citizen.  This was the perfect opportunity to test the new piece of equipment; this equipment was designed for use in these types of rescue where the subject needs to be kept warm in a wilderness environment,” said Sheppard.

BC Ambulance Service was also dispatched to the highway near the site to receive the subject once he was treated in the field and ready to be transported by the helicopter.

Once on scene, Terrace SAR treated the man’s injuries and with the aid of his friends, loaded him into the SAR helicopter (Lakelse Air).

Due to limited landing zones near the highway, the SAR helicopter transported the injured snowmobiler directly to Terrace for medical treatment at Mills Memorial Hospital.