Ten Terrific Reasons to Attend A Search Conference
You see them every year, notices inviting you to participate in a search and rescue conference. You put them aside to think about later and never seem to get around to going to one of them.
Learn what goes on at a conference and why you should really go.
1. Networking Nirvana
Don’t hide in your room. Making connections can be one of the most valuable things to obtain from a convention. Who better to make friends with than others who get out of bed at 3am to tromp around in the woods in the rain? A convention is the big chance to get to know some of those bleary eyed strangers you pass by on a search. I have found search and rescue folks to have some of the best stories and sense of humor, a side you would never see at a search.
SAR people come from all walks of life and all teams train a bit differently. Now is the time to get a different perspective on that training problem you have been trying to tackle the past few months. Share information and even consider setting up a joint training date for your teams in the future.
Grab a frosty beverage or a steaming cup of cocoa and cozy up around the fire for some good stories and lasting friendships.
2. Rub Elbows with those Other Guys
You see them only briefly at base with their strange equipment before you head out on your own task. Who are those other guys?
Search and rescue is not just about paws and boots on the ground. Have you ever wondered what in the world those other guys do out there in the field? Now is your chance to find out. Get the inside look at how trackers (signcutters), horseback, technical rescue, base operations, communications, medical, civil air patrol, ground pounders, tracking/trailing dogs, air scent dogs, water searchers, and others do their jobs out in the field. I have yet to meet someone who did not have an interesting role to play during a search.
Don’t forget this is your chance to teach others about what you do during a search. The more we know about each other’s roles, the more effective we are on a search.
3. Shake the Hand of a Lawyer Even a Bloodhound Will Like
“Why on earth would I want to make friends with a lawyer at a SAR convention?” you ask. You never know when you might end up in court to testify on a case. You might be surprised how many lawyers participate in search and rescue. Perhaps you might even have the luck of attending a class taught by a lawyer. Having a friend ease your courtroom jitters if ever you end up on the stand is invaluable. Trust me on this one.
Lawyers aren’t the only folks you will want to meet at a convention. Remember, there are a lot of people involved in a search. Forensic scientists, law enforcement, government officials, researchers, politicians, radio operators, logistics personnel, military, media, and supervisors are all excellent people to get to know. There is nothing better than showing up to a search and already knowing the folks running it.
4. Gear Up
Admit it, part of why you got in to search and rescue was the cool gear. A conference is the place to check out the latest and greatest gear available. Where else can you try it out, try it on, and ask others in search and rescue about it?
Did I mention you can also get amazing deals?
5. Tackle Unique Courses
Explore the list of presentations for unusual or seemingly unrelated topics. You can gain great knowledge from lectures that sound completely off the wall. Add more zing to your search and rescue life.
6. Pick the Brains of the Experts
“I own the book, why would I take the class?” I asked this of myself as I signed up for a two day class given by the author of a book we use often in SAR. Yes, you read that right; TWO DAYS!
First, get all of your burning questions from the guy or girl who literally wrote the book. Books are unfortunately a one sided conversation. Get all of your misunderstandings and fuzzy ideas cleared up by the expert. You do have a few questions, don’t you?
Classroom settings allow presenters to bring topics alive by sharing pictures, video, slides, and sound recordings. Those pesky difficult concepts really become clear when presented with a bit of visual or ear candy.
Courses may also include table top exercises or even hands on experience out in the field. Nothing beats a professional literally guiding your hand.
You also don’t want to miss out on all of the real world examples that are typically included in these classes. I even had people sitting next to me who were involved in the searches discussed in the class. Talk about really getting the inside scoop!
7. Get your Hands Dirty
Get out there and do some hands on stuff in a relaxed setting. What better way to try your hand at new skill than a situation where messing up has no consequences. This last conference I could experience what it was like to be a lost person with dementia, explore local wildlife in the nearby woods, crawl around on the ground following tracks, get windblown by a helicopter, investigate a crime scene, design emergency medical devices Mac Gyver style, zip through the trees, try my hand at land navigation, and much more. At the end of the day, I had access to a nice hot shower in the bath house. What’s not to like?
8. Dive into Unique Experiences
Get out of your comfort zone and try some new things. If you are lucky enough to have your conference on a well equipped confidence course, hang out like a monkey in the trees. If you do not like heights, considere going for a boat ride or a swim with your k9 friend. If you live on the east coast like we do, being dropped off by a helicopter is a rare occurence, but it does happen. Be prepared by getting familiarized with the aircraft and giving your dog a great experience with fun and treats while it takes off and lands.
We had the luck of having a technical rescue team set up a zip line and litter for our dogs to ride on. Fun and a very useful skill to have if ever needed. Weeeeee! Get out there and play.
9. Delete the Distractions
Every search is an emergency where you may have to learn something new on the fly and under pressure. Take advantage of the stress-free environment of a conference to learn new things; really learn. You will be free from distractions and will be able to focus on what you are learning much better. Don’t forget, you will also be surrounded by new friends that can help you along. Most likely, they have been there before.
10. Frolic in Fun
Finally, what do we truly go to a conference for? It’s fun!
Return to your fond childhood memories of summer camp. Claim the top bunk, or hang a hammock for your bed. You can play fun games and enter raffles for cool stuff. Relax away from work and family stress in the quiet of nature.