Helicopter long line rescue course

I spent the weekend (4 days) training in Squamish with the rest of my SAR team on helicopter long line rescue. Readers of the blog probably know that I’ve been doing this type of rescue for a while now (since 2004) – I attended the course as part of a recertification, and as a team building exercise.

The course, delivered by Emergco, and taught by instructors Bill Mark and Gavin Reed, was intense, thorough, and very complete. We went through risk analysis exercises, scenarios, “dry land” training with a hoist, and live training. Even though I’ve done upwards of 30 missions (training and rescues combined), I found the course extremely valuable. The insight of two backcountry professionals such as our instructors was hard to beat, and I also learned from the 10 other highly experienced SAR members taking the course.

Here’s some video of one of the exercises:

You can see me being picked up and slung into a rescue site. As I’m being lowered I halt, and throw a tag line which allows the ground SAR member to guide me in. The reverse is done as I’m being lifted — I pause and release the tag line, and am slung back to the staging area.

The long line technique is not new, and has become a standard SAR tool over the past 15 years. The addition of this skill set to my SAR team is much anticipated since we’ve averaged 5 long line rescues per year for the past 5 years where we’ve asked adjacent teams to respond to our area. Having the ability to do these rescues within the team means we can respond quicker, we can use our local knowledge of the terrain and types of rescues to our advantage, our team is more familiar with the technique which improves safety, and we can also use this to make our field teams safer — ultimately, we can rescue our own searchers if they are injured “on the job.”

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