Author Archives: Max Khaytsus

Operation Fulford Fall – Day 2

1000 feet above the valley floor

The view at 1,000 feet above the valley floor is nothing short of breathtaking.

The second day scenario was a report of a missing hiker/climber whose emergency locator beacon was activated overnight.  The team had coordinates from the beacon and had a good idea of where to find the subject – about 1000 feet above the floor of the valley.  The incident commander decided to hike up with the team to have a better opportunity to manage the rescue.

Cave Entrance

A 50 foot high, 120 foot wide cave entrance greeted the team.

The team was able to approach the coordinates from below, only to be stopped by a 70 foot cliff with a gaping cave entrance, 50 feet tall by about 120 feet wide.  They guessed that the subject was up above and sent a small team up to look at what was at the top of the cliff.  The rescuers were able to climb up and located the subject, who was hypothermic from spending the night above 10,000 feet without proper equipment.

Cliff Problem

The cliff above the cave created a significant logistical problem.

Rope Bag

O-41, first one up the cliff, anchors a rope and throws down a rope bag to help other team members up.

Rigging the Cliff

O-35 and O-41 rig the cliff for access by the rest of the team.

Team members rigged the cliff to get more rescuers and equipment up.  It was decided that rather than taking the subject down a steep cliff full of uncooperative brush, they would use the cave skylight to lower the subject before evacuating him off the mountain.

Making a Path

Left: O-35 studies the rope snagged on brush some 30 feet below him – and 20 feet off the ground.
Right: O-35 and O-41 fix the rope as O-1 watches.

The entire team climbed the cliff and while some members treated and packaged the subject, others rigged the skylight for the rescue.  The subject was successfully lowered.  The entire team chose to rappel down through the skylight, rather than fight their way down the cliff face.

Rigged and Ready

Left: The cliff face is rigged for rescuers to come up.
Right: The skylight at the mouth of the cave is also rigged, to lower the subject.

Going Down

O-41 serves as the litter attendant, taking the subject down the skylight in a sked.

Six Dogs

Six dogs wait for their owners to return at the mouth of the cave. Someone had to guard all the gear left behind.

Operation Fulford Fall – Day 1

Operation Fulford Fall

Operation Fulford Fall

For our annual weekend wilderness training, the team gathered on the edge of Holy Cross Wilderness to run some training simulations.

The training scenario on the first day was locating a fisherman reported missing in the mountains.  The team set up an incident command post at the campground and deployed two hasty teams.  One team was sent to check the local main trails and the perimeter of the lake while the other team walked the cliff edge overlooking the creek below to see if anything would spark their interest.  Not finding anything significant, Hasty 1 hiked the stream of the creek going up while Hasty 2 went downstream, negotiating cliff edge in an attempt to locate the subject.

Holy Cross Wilderness

The terrain was absolutely beautiful and very much overgrown, making any search attempt difficult at best.

Team Briefing

Team gathers at the initial planning point to brief before deploying.

Hasty 2 made the find with the subject being creek side, about 100 feet down a ravine.  He was unconscious from a rock fall with bruising at the temple.  While the subject was being treated, all fielded members regrouped at the top of the cliff and rigged a litter for rescue.  A litter was lowered and the subject was brought up successfully.

Rescue from the Ravine

Left: O-38 and O-40 make a successful find of the unconscious, hypothermic subject.
Center: O-1 joins O-40 to treat and prepare the subject for transport.
Right: O-35 rappels down with a litter and gear for the subject.

Rescue Lines

Left: Litter is rigged for rescue. White mainline has the litter (orange rope) and patient safety (orange webbing) clipped into it. The green line will be connected to the litter separately as the belay line.
Center: O-38 checks the lines before the litter is pulled up.
Right: O-1 will serve as litter attendant to help get the subject past any obstacles.

Wilderness First Aid

Whether spending time in the backcountry is your passion or your profession, you should never have to ask, “What do I do now?” In this fast-paced and hands-on course, you will learn how to prepare for the unexpected.

The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute’s (WMI) curriculum includes many advanced topics that other programs leave out such as dislocation reduction and epinephrine administration. In just two days, you will have the knowledge, skills and ability to make sound decisions in emergency situations.

This course is ideal for trip leaders, camp staff, outdoor enthusiasts and individuals in remote locations. WMI’s course is pre-approved by such organizations as the American Camping Association, the United States Forest Service and other government agencies. This course does not include CPR.

Wilderness First Aid 2015-11-14

Wilderness First Aid Class — November 14-15, 2015.

This training is open to the public.

National Preparedness Month Fair 2015

Every year since 2012 we’ve worked with the City of Aurora and the American Red Cross to host the National Preparedness Month Fair.  The idea behind this event is to engage the community and help residents develop a better awareness of the type of disasters that can strike the metropolitan area, help them understand available resources in the event of a disaster and, most importantly, help them create a personal plan to deal with these potential issues.

September is National Preparedness Month.  It is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities through the use of the Ready Campaign, a strategic outreach that delivers preparedness information to the public.  The program has been active since 2004 and is centered on September due to the events that took place on September 11, 2001.

National Preparedness Month Fair 2015

National Preparedness Month Fair 2015 took place at Utah Park in Aurora, CO.

To date we held the National Preparedness Month Fair at Gardens on Havana, but as the Gardens retail area developed, we’ve been squeezed to an ever smaller parcel of land and this year the City of Aurora decided that a move to a new location would be appropriate.  The 2015 Fair was held at Utah Park, one of the jewels in the Aurora parks systems.

 

Participating in this year’s Fair were

Checking out AirLife

A curious crowd takes a closer look at the AirLife helicopter.

Professional Photobomber

Shadow is a professional photobomber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough estimates place the attendees at around 1,000 over the course of the six hour event.  Not a huge amount of people, but a very steady stream of curious individuals asking questions.  A fair number expressed interest in participating with agencies that accept volunteers.

National Preparedness Month is not just one Saturday in September.  It is a series of events sponsored by a multitude of agencies across the nation as a part of the Ready Campaign, culminating in America’s PrepareAthon on September 30.  We would like to join FEMA in asking all of America to prepare, plan and stay informed.  Learn about America’s PrepareAthon and as you do, take action, be counted and spread the word!

A Busy Day at Utah Park

Park goers visit the National Preparedness Month Fair.

Operation Deli Wrap

Operation Deli Wrap

Operation Deli Wrap

An annual event for OMEGA is a summer camping outing to practice rescue skills. Members of the team spend 48 hours in a remote area of Colorado sharpening their outdoor skills and practicing rescue skills.

This year’s trip was on the Western Slope. Participants used the first evening to set up camp in a remote area of the White River National Forest. The site selection was very deliberate, forcing the team to give basic survival greater consideration. The camp site was on a plateau, miles away from civilization. Bathroom use required digging a hole and covering up the deposit. Water was restricted to what was brought in. More water was available from a creek a mile away and a good three hundred feet down. It would need to be purified before it could be used.

Cobweb in Forest

It’s a dense forest with some monster cobwebs.

First thing in the morning of the second day, the team received a simulated callout for a missing hiker. A male in his 20s went hiking in the area the day before and had not returned as was expected. The reporting party was able to provide some directions to where the missing hiker was supposed to be. This required some orienteering skills on the part of the team in order to look for the subject. Along the way they encountered various clues, mostly in the form of discarded items, helping them rebuild the hiker’s path.

Search Dog

“I know he’s out there somewhere…”

Mantracking

Searching for clues on the top of the plateau.

The hiker was located on the far end of the plateau in a cave entrance pit, which he fell into. He was unconscious with possible spinal injuries and hypothermic. Several members of the team entered the pit to stabilize and package the hiker for transport. The rest of the team rigged a haul system above the pit to get the hiker out.

Access - Stabilize - Tranport

Access – Stabilize – Transport

A little evening caving

A little evening caving

The exercise relied on the participants to use a variety of skills to successfully locate and extract the patient and a little brawn to get him off the plateau to a waiting vehicle.

The evening activity was exploring caves in the area – a little recreation and developing navigation skills on the surface and contortion skills underground.

Sunday morning was a time to break camp and get ready to leave the wilderness. Several members went on a hike to enjoy nature’s beauty. Mission accomplished.

Cattle Drive

Heading out, the team was caught in a cattle drive.

Earthquakes

We live in a world susceptible to disasters.  Hollywood often capitalizes on the cinematic aspect of disasters, but the reality is far from what we get to see on the silver screen.

Dwayne Johnson, star of the recently released movie San Andreas, starred in a public service announcement to talk about the reality of earthquakes.

View the clip and visit http://ready.gov/earthquake/ to learn about this danger.

Antonio’s Rescue

A component of search and rescue is technical rescue.  This is far more common in mountain rescue and in cave rescue than it is in urban settings, but there are times when this is a necessary skill and regardless of the setting, performing the rescue requires very specific skills.
One of the components of Operation Rumble in the Rockies was introducing a stranded window washer 25 feet off the ground.  He was too far away from the window for responders to reach and the roof was inaccessible.  Exercise participants — ARES, CERT, MRC and ground SAR — did not have the skills to perform a technical rescue and the idea was to recognize a limitation in capabilities and request resources to solve the problem.

The attached video is a demonstration of what a a technical rope rescue would look like.  This is similar to what you would see in mountain and cave settings.

Members of OMEGA hold two vertical training sessions each month to allow our members to develop and maintain the skills required to perform rescues such as this.

Broken Watch

Invicta Automatic Watch

The clear back of an Invicta automatic watch shows the motion activated self-winding mechanism.

My sisters always get mad at me. A few years ago they thought that a milestone birthday deserved an extra special gift, so they got me a “super watch”, an Invicta automatic watch. This isn’t just a watch. It’s a top of the line chronometer, very beautiful, waterproof to 200 meters, and, most importantly, needs neither winding, nor batteries. It “self-winds” as it is worn. The motion of the wrist actuates a pendulum and stores the kinetic energy from movement, enabling the watch to run. I’ll be honest, I was floored. It’s an amazing watch and far more expensive a watch than I think I deserve.

But I just don’t wear the watch and that causes a lot of strife. My sisters contend that a beautiful watch is not to sit in a display case, but to be worn on a wrist. I agree with them. But a watch on my wrist is a special case.

I’ve been wearing watches since I’ve been 9 years old. I have my father to thank for that. He got me my first watch and it was a nice watch. I still own it. But in 1995 I got my first pager and it showed the time and the watch faded away. When I “upgraded” to a cell phone, the pager faded. And a smartphone made the “dumb” phone fade away. And through all this the watch never came back. In this business of search and rescue and emergency management redundancy is very important, but redundancy to know the time is not. You tend to be very conscious of the time when on a mission and it’s not because of the watch.

Broken Watch

Technical rescue puts personal equipment at risk.

About the only time I wear a watch these days is when I’m in a place where my phone does not have signal or stands a good chance of being damaged. Generally that’s in a cave, on a cliff or in a remote wilderness. And because of these environments, my watch budget is about $5. I need a watch that tells time and that I won’t cry over when I destroy it. I destroy a lot of watches. This year I blew out the band on a watch when at the cave rescue training in Texas. The watch still works, but it will never be able to be attached to a wrist band again. And this weekend I managed to crack the face on a favorite cave watch. It was favorite because the hands were phosphorescent and would glow in the dark. Very cool in a cave. And easy to tell time in the dark.

So that brings me back to the Invicta. I really do love it. It’s an amazing piece of finely crafted precision technology and something that requires no human intervention to run. That’s good, because I always forgot to wind manual watches when I had them. I’ll wear this watch to a wedding or a high society event or even a night at the theater – not a movie theater or a dinner theater, mind you – a Broadway play kind of theater. But I can’t justify such an amazing watch for my everyday environments. Knowing what I do and how hard I am on my gear, it’s only a matter of time before I scratch it or crack it or just destroy it.

Operation Rumble in the Rockies

Operation Rumble in the Rockies, a North Central Region full scale exercise.

Technical Rope Rescue

Responders working in the air to rescue an unconscious window washer.

This weekend we hosted Operation Rumble in the Rockies, a regional full scale exercise combining many teams from across the region. Part of the exercise was rescuing an unconscious window washer trapped twenty feet above ground. It’s technical rope rescue and in a light breeze there’s still a bunch of swaying that happens on rope. Great news! We saved the window washer. My watch wasn’t nearly as lucky.

This past Friday was National Siblings Day and I love my sisters. I should probably tell them that more often. On Saturday I destroyed another watch and I’m grateful that it cost around $5 and most likely delivered that value to me in the amount of time that I had it. As I was retiring the watch today, I thought the convergence of events over the weekend was interesting. Worthy of an article, at least.

Operation Rumble in the Rockies

Are you coming to Operation Rumble in the Rockies on April 11 at the Metro Fire Training Center?

OMEGA

OMEGA

Operation Rumble in the Rockies

Operation Rumble in the Rockies

 *** Exercise Message Only ***

 At 8:35 AM on the 11th of April, 2015, a strong earthquake centered near Golden rocked Colorado. The quake was centered at the southern tip of the Golden Fault Line and registered at 6.2 on the Richter Scale. It was felt as far away as Casper, WY and Grand Junction.

Roads west of Denver are reported to be impassable. Multiple rock slides have closed access to the mountain communities west of the Front Range. There are reports of cracking on the face of the Mt. Elbert Forebay Dam. Extensive structural damage is being reported up and down the Colorado Front Range with media reporting that no large structure has gone undamaged.

The Denver metropolitan area is experiencing rolling power outages, loss of phone and cellular service, water and gas main breaks. Emergency services are focusing their efforts on major structural damage and high density areas of the metroplex.

In the wake of the earthquake there is an unknown number of casualties and known fatalities can be identified almost immediately. Police, fire and EMS are unable to respond to the scope of the disaster. Volunteer units are some of the earliest response available.

 *** Exercise Message Only ***

Operation Rumble in the Rockies

Operation Rumble in the Rockies