I thought I would give a snapshot of what goes into a volunteer rescue team's readiness for missions. I just spent a weekend at June Lake with my team (the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group) at the annual CRMRA (California Region of the Mountain Rescue Association) recertification exercise.
Some background. Every year all the mountain rescue teams in California get together to "examine each other." The host team sets up realistic problems, and each participating team must solve its problem in a satisfactory manner. Teams are numerically graded in several categories including leadership, logistics, safety, medical, and technical (the myriad details of stretcher, rope, and hardware work). The scores must be above a certain threshold to pass, and we then say that the team has recertified*. A team that fails must retest at a later date. Failure is very rare.
This year the topic was snow/ice. Next year it will be search, and the year after that, rock. Then the cycle repeats.
There were 19 teams at June Lake, involving well over 200 members--all volunteers, of course. Go to www.crmra.org
to learn more. (If you look closely at the picture on the first page, you might be able to pick me out.) And I took some pictures.
In addition to the annual recertification, each team gets practice on actual SARs, and spends a lot of time in training. I don't have the figures for 2012 yet, but in 2011 CLMRG members spent 5,300 hours in 124 training events (mostly climbing, followed by first aid, mantracking, etc.) and drove 18,400 miles (in their own vehicles).
*The origin of the term comes from the process of admitting a new team to the CRMRA. The team must prove (certify) that they will be an asset to the SAR community.