On March 9 through 11, thirty-nine volunteer responders from Whatcom County CERT and Whatcom County Search & Rescue Council completed 24 hours of training in Wide Area Search (PER-213). This training was hosted at the Whatcom Unified Emergency Coordination Center and delivered by visiting instructors from the Texas A & M Engineering Extension (TEEX), a major provider of FEMA/DHS emergency response training.
In this course which combined classroom lecture, hands-on practical exercises, and table top exercises, students learned the essentials of management and planning, field operations, and briefing and documentation for large scale search operations. In addition to essential modes of search, students received training on mapping and the United States National Grid (USNG) coordinate system, practice on scoping and organizing teams, tasks, and resources for searches in a post-disaster environment.
This course and curriculum were developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005), where significant gaps in knowledge, technique, and methodology were discovered between the specialties of wilderness rescue operations and urban search & rescue. Wide Area Search focuses on the unique combined challenges related to disasters, which impact large geographical areas, overwhelm local response capacity, require a variety of different resources and skills, and result in an unknown number of victims. A follow-up field exercise will be scheduled in mid-2018 for students in this course, as well as a second offering of the course in the fall for emergency response volunteers who were unable to join this course.