"Search and Rescue in Hawaii" with Oahu SAR
Surrounded by ocean and divided by mountain ranges, the Hawaiian island of Oahu has unique geography for search and rescue. Robin was joined by Becca Frager, Director of Training at Oahu SAR to hear about the challenges they face and their hiking safety education initiative which aims to reduce the number of rescues needed.
Oahu’s Location and Terrain
Oahu is Hawaii’s most populated island with a population of just over 1 million. Oahu SAR also sometimes works on other Hawaiian islands, and travel time by plane takes 30 minutes to one hour depending on the island they’re traveling to. Oahu has two major mountain ranges, the Koʻolau Range is the largest, followed by the Waiʻanae Range on the other side of the island.
These mountain ranges are popular with hikers, and depending on the side of the island, the terrain can be extremely dry or extremely wet. The island has a tropical climate and the mountains have steep, volcanic terrain that can become crumbly and dangerous. Mud can also be incredibly slippery, and this can quickly turn treacherous if hikers are on the wrong ridge. The jungle can also be very thick, which can make it easy for hikers to step off the trail and lose their way.
Oahu SAR’s speciality is Wilderness Search and Rescue. Their callouts can range from multi-agency searches that last for weeks on end, to someone who got off trail, gets lost, and calls them before it turns into a major rescue. Oahu SAR also trains in rope rescue so that they can access people in canyons or any other terrain where a haul system is required to remove them. A lot of searches involve doing rappels and moving up and down cliff faces. The vegetation can be dense which makes it hard for a helicopter or a drone to get a good view of the situation.
Oahu SAR are on call 24/7 so they search day and night depending on the situation and hazards.
Most of Oahu SAR’s gear is located in the city of Honolulu, this is also where a lot of their training takes place. Every member starts out as a probationary member and if somebody is motivated, they can become a callout qualified member in approximately 6 months. In order to become callout qualified, probationary members must attend a series of trainings such as naviagtion, search theory, lost person behavior, and rope rescue.
Everybody gets tested on skills such as basic knots, pack checks to make sure they have the required gear to stay safe out in the wilderness, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Command System (ICS) 100 and 700 for when they are collaborating with other agencies.
Preventative Search and Rescue Educational Programs
Oahu SAR works with various youth and adult groups to educate them on hiking safety, with an aim to reduce the number of rescues needed. They teach the public about what to pack in their hiking bags, how to prepare for a hike, how to be responsible on the trails, and the best way to respond if something does go wrong on a trail.
How Oahu SAR Uses D4H to Track Equipment
Oahu SAR’s equipment includes medical equipment, radios, an AED, first-aid supplies, ropes, carabiners and pulleys. They use D4H Equipment Management to track their equipment. Every time they purchase a new piece of gear they upload it to D4H and include information like its retirement date, any notes, and the vendor. This comes in handy if they need to replace the item, and they also get a notification in advance of retirement dates.
How Oahu SAR Uses D4H to Track Training
Becca is the Director of Training at Oahu SAR, so she mainly uses D4H to track team training activities. As part of her role she plans trainings for the entire year, tracks attendance, makes sure all members are up to date on their training and qualifications. D4H Personnel & Training’s shared calendar comes in extremely useful when Becca is planning out the team’s training schedule for the year. Each individual training exercise will have a location, some notes, and attendance information also.
All training exercises and time spent training are then logged against each member profile in D4H.
Managing Team Communications in D4H
Oahu SAR also uses D4H to manage day-to-day team communications. They can send communications via D4H’s built in email functionality, or they can use D4H’s third party integration with Twilio for SMS text messages. The team can also send communications to various groups within the SAR team, such as on-call members, probationary members, etc.