Archive for orienteering

Lines and Boundaries

Posted in howto, pets, Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by demigorge

More lessons for the handler than the dog.

Assuming you’re not going to dump me in the middle of the desert with nothing but dunes and mirages for as far as the eye can see, I’m pretty comfortable getting around with a topo map and a compass. Even more so if it’s a recent topo map and a compass bigger than a button.  So when someone sets up a griding  sector we’ve never been to before I think literally nothing of it. It’s just another day at training where we wander through the woods trying not to fall all over ourselves and put Grom in the best possible place to make his little discovery.

Because he and I are in the middle of our testing process we use every opportunity to practice the skills we’re going to need, not only on a test, but in a real search. So the problem was set up like a light brush test, and everything about it was a dress rehearsal for the actual test we’d be running soon. Most importantly was getting an area topo map, defining our sector, and developing our strategy.  Rarely do we get to respond to a search in an area we know well, so making sense of our surroundings quickly becomes a real asset. This is the map of the area, with the redzone being the new sector. The blue line indicating my plan, and incidentally what I thought I did at the time.

So we set out along the road on the south side of the sector, which I have determined in 200 meters to the west end where my unmarked boundary should run along a drainage. This is the boundary I have chosen to work first since it’s an easy shot almost due north to the stream, which is my north most boundary. It should be a simple task of counting 120 steps and then turning north.

Looking for a drainage

When I get to 119 steps I look around and realize I don’t see a drainage to my right. In fact what I see to my right is flat, wide, and open. But if I walk another 30 paces, there’s a nice drainage right beside it. Simply put, I think it’s a good thing my counting ability is not being tested because I would have failed that part.

But if you look at the GPS track that recorded my path, as well as the path of two other people who worked the same sector, you’ll notice we all overshot the boundary. One of those tracks was actually recorded by the person who was looking at the GPS as he was walking the line, and even he missed the boundary.

what actually happened.

It did not turn out to be a huge issue in this case. Even though we were out of our sector, and technically didn’t know where we were at the time, all the dogs were able to put their noses on the subject. So it didn’t affect the outcome of the problem, but it did point out a couple of things for me.  Not least of which is that this is how you get holes in your grid pattern.

More importantly though,  I need to put a little more trust in my pace count. Even having a GPS will not always put you exactly where you want to be.  Also, If you go looking for a terrain feature, you will find it. But it, and consequently you, may not be where you think you need to be.

Sit! Staaaaaaaaayyyy.  Wait for it.  Good Boy!

(The second half of this post will be posted later)

FTL Weekend Part Three: The Search

Posted in Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by rattlerjen

our coordinates

our coordinates - Team Golf

We practiced all day.

We gathered in groups, folded our maps, checked our boots, and tightened our packs.

We oriented our maps, set a bearing, followed it, and counted our paces.

We slipped in snow, fought with brambles, spread out to search, and doubled back.

We found our markers.

We were practicing land navigation with our map and compass as a team.

It was all just practice for what was to come.

The Mock Search

It was time for all of us to put what we learned to the test.  The students and instructors gathered together to learn what we could about the search to come at the briefing.  Three people were lost in the woods behind the community center and we had to find them.  There was already snow on the ground and the temperature was to drop into the teens at night.  None of them were prepared to be out in the weather.

ftl mock search weather

During the briefing several people asked some very good questions.  It was very important to find out everything we could about the people missing, the situation, and the search area.

After briefing everyone went to gather their equipment and sign in.  I on the other hand really had to use the ladies room.  Cold weather and drinking water all day, you do the math.

As I was making my way back to the classroom, several people in the hallway told me my name was being called.  I was wanted in the last room, the incident command center.  A team had already been picked for me and I was needed to begin briefing for my task.

Turns out I was placed with a signcutter team, cool!  The only thing I really knew is that they would be very detail oriented.  These guys see things the rest of us walk right by.  I imagined them crawling along the ground inspecting leaves with magnifying glasses, sniffing pine needles, and tasting rocks.  This was going to much different than keeping up with a search dog.

Our task was to walk to the stream and cut for sign along it.  Two other signcutter teams had been sent out to look for other clues.  The rest of the teams were ground searchers, scouring the woods for the lost ones with flashlights.  My job was to lead the team of signcutters, which really meant, follow behind and let them do their job.  That left me with the radio, navigation, notes, keeping track of everyone, and searching for more obvious clues with my flashlight.  I was excited.

We did not even get to the start of our task area before the trackers found several sets of prints.  Popsicle sticks, tape measurers, and note pads emerged from pockets while I watched.  I began to realize there were a dozen questions I could have asked at the briefing that may have been of use for the sign cutters.  Several of which would have involved shoes.  We followed the tracks to the stream, I radioed base indicating we started our task.

I followed along counting my paces, inspecting the map, learning a bit about sign cutting, and trying to listen to the radio. I found it was not easy to keep track of all of the traffic coming over the radio and paying attention to my other responsibilities.  One being not falling face first into the  icy stream.  Calls coming in were constant.  Teams starting task and giving progress reports were intermixed with clues being called in and questions asked.  Was that one of the teams indicating they had found one of the missing persons?  I continued to listen and jot down information as we crawled forward.

I was learning much about how to work with a specialized team.  I was also learning that the extra layer of clothing I intended to take off once we were moving would stay put.  Following sign cutters does not involve much of a physical workout.  Just have to remember to wiggle my toes every once and a while.

We may have been going slower than many of the other teams, but these guys were hot on a trail in the snow, picking it out among a mess of other prints.  I was beginning to wonder how far I was from sniffing a few leaves myself.

This stuff is interesting.

A call came over the radio.  Misty’s, the lost woman’s, shirt was found.  Later, someone called about hearing a whistle coming from the woods.  Could it be who we were looking for?

Tune in later to find out…

FTL: First Weekend

Posted in Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by rattlerjen

Field Team Leader Training.

Class Description

Intermediate-level training in search team management, implementation of search tactics, supervision of team performance, proper use of semi-technical rescue equipment, and evacuation management. The FTL course consists of approx. 60% classroom and 40% field instruction. Field work is held regardless of current weather conditions unless extreme conditions present personal safety concerns. Successful completion prepares the student to adequately function as a Field Team Leader under the indirect supervision of the Operations Section Chief.

Physical Ability and Conditioning: Search and Rescue is hard, physically demanding work. Prospective students to the field classes must be capable of ascending steep slopes (up to 60 degrees) over rough terrain, in the dark, while carrying a backpack that may weigh up to 40lbs. After several hours in the field under the previously described conditions, the student will then enter the rescue portion of the course. During the rescue SAR personnel will assist in the carry-out of a patient as part of a rotating 6-person team. The litter with patient package may weigh up to 300lbs. Read my post on patient packaging and litter carrying.

I learned so many things from this class.

The first thing explained to us was we needed to know everything from FTM (Field Team Member) class well enough that we could teach it.

That includes many rescue knots, carrying a litter, land navigation using a map and compass, helicopter proticol, radio communications, and boring government terms, organization, and paperwork.  (Sorry folks, but if I were to tell you that the National Incident Management stuff was riveting you wouldn’t believe me if I told you water was wet.)

The instructors found a way to make all subjects covered pretty fun. The Power Point presentations are often sprinkled with jokes, quotes, and funny pictures and the personal stories from the instructors really juice things up.  Often the stories from the instructors are more instructive than anything included in the prepared lessons.  I saw not one nodding head nor glazed eye the entire weekend!

We learned a few new knots.

Double Figure Eight Loop – Click to see an animated video

butterfly knot

This knot can be used for a harness or as an anchor for rappelling.

Emergency Harness – click to see animated video

This is a simple harness that anyone can do.  It is very useful for those steep drainages we sometimes have to search.  Simply strap one of these on yourself and anchor a rope to a nice tree to prevent a head over heals tumble down a rocky slope.

Butterfly – click to see animated video

Use this pretty knot on either side of a damaged rope.  A useful thing to know when you discover the rope you are hanging from got chewed on by a nasty rock.

Munter Mule – click to see animated video

or click here for Appalachian Rescue’s easier-to-tie version

This knot gives a controlled slide through a carabiner.  It is used when rappelling.  We will learn more about how this nifty knot works next weekend.

Triple Redundant Harness – click to see how this one is tied

A more secure harness than the emergency harness.  This version uses a bowline hitch, but it can also be made with water knots.

We learned that we carry more stuff

Here is an old posting about what I carry in my SAR pack

First, we have to carry all the things an FTM carries:
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket
  • Waterproof (windproof) pants (these don’t have to be expensive, just functional)
  • Wool or synthetic shirts or sweaters.
  • Wool or synthetic pants, or BDU’s with appropriate thermal underwear. NO JEANS!
  • Long underwear made of wool, silk, or other synthetic material – Cotton thermal underwear is not acceptable.
  • Gloves for cold weather with either leather palms, or a leather outer glove layer.
  • Stocking Cap or Balaclava
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Wool or synthetic socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket and pants.
  • Long pants – preferably rip stop material. NO SHORTS
  • Lightweight shirt – preferably of breathable material.
  • Hat
  • Gloves with minimum of a leather palm.
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Backpack large enough for daypack use
  • One quart minimum canteen or water bottle
  • One day supply of quick energy food
  • Whistle
  • Compass (Silva or Brunton preferred)
  • Headlamp with a set of spare batteries and bulb.
  • One other alternate source of light with spare batteries & bulb
  • Personal First Aid Kit
  • At least one 30-gallon leaf bag
  • Waterproof matches or disposable lighter
  • Storm Shelter (can be items already in pack such as garbage bag)
  • Handheld radio
  • Toilet paper
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Moleskin
  • Gaitors
  • Sunscreen
  • Signal mirror
  • Parachute cord
  • Small notebook & pen
  • Insect repellant
  • Water purification tablets or filter system
  • GPS Unit – Know how to use this and have it set up properly before putting it in your pack!

Field Team Leader Equipment List

All required equipment from the Field Team Member Equipment List (see above), PLUS:

  • 25 feet of one-inch nylon tubular webbing
  • Two (2) Locking-D aluminum alloy carabiners
  • UIAA approved climbing helmet (or hardhat with chin strap)
  • Electric Headlamp w/ extra batteries and bulb

We learned about ourselves.

Most of what makes up an FTL’s job is management of people.  It is the most important and most difficult skill to learn.  Within five minutes of walking into the classroom I was given a personality test.  Shockingly, I tested quite high as a “Showman.”  No surprise there.  Eleven years ago I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and came out with INTP.  I took it today scoring INTJ (although the J score was quite low.)

How useful it can be to understand how you think and react to events! Take the Myers-Briggs Jung Personality test free online here.

In order to successfully lead a team, one must understand different personalities and how to work with them.  Every personality type has jobs that best suit them.  Note: I have a big mouth, never give me the radio.

What it boils down to:gumby

It’s all about practice and experience in the field.

You are not physically fit at the moment to carry all this stuff.

Teaching and doing shows for four to eight year olds may help or hinder your ability to be a leader for adults.

Your mouth is gonna get you into trouble one day.

Limit the amount of Pizza and Mexican Food you eat at training weekend.  Rescue pants need to fit tomorrow!

Semper Gumby!

Survival weekend training fun

Posted in life with a working dog, pets, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by rattlerjen

Every year our team has a survival training weekend. This was my first time participating.
We had the great pleasure of Rob Spieden to teach the class for the entire day.

A flurry of emails before the weekend quickly spoiled any hope of me losing any weight during the weekend and dashed my hopes of eating beetle stew.  A great pot luck feast was brewing amongst the team.  My husband and I brought two dozen donuts.  I sat them on the classroom table near enough food to feed three times the class’s partipating number.

We had just enough time to finish our coffee and donuts before Rob decided classrooms are boring.  After a wonderful introduction to the use of maps and compass, most of us already had one or two classes under our belts on the subject, we staggered outside.  Under the weight of our packs and maps in hand, we staggered into the woods to find our first orienteering marker.learning to navigate

This marker is a four foot tall wooden post with the top painted orange and a white number carved into the side.  We had to bushwack by a route through the woods to find it.  Our small group of troublemakers walked straight down the road where it comes to a stop at another road crossing it.  We then cut into the woods and down a drainage nearly straight to the marker.  It was the easy route.

With a simple walk upstream we walked nearly right into the marker.

On a lovely carpet of bright green moss we sat and waited for the other groups to catch up. They had taken more challenging routes and found the marker soon after we did.  On the perfect area for maximum relaxation, we learned about the Rule of Threes.  A simple list of things to remember in order for a human to survive.

Then, we whipped out the knives.  Big ones, little ones, pink ones, serrated ones, ones with scissors, ones with saws.  Some people had multiple knives. Some had enough knives to belong to the circus.  A few had knives that belonged on the set of Crocodile Dundee.  We like the knives.  A good thing too.  A decent knife is an important item on the list of 10 Essential Survival Items.

box turtleEveryone was instructed to find the next marker on the side of a steep hill.  I joined a group that decided to walk upstream counting drainages in order to find our marker.  A slow turtle and gorgeous warty little red toad later, we aimed ourselves up a steep drainage.  red toad

God, I am out of shape.orienting the map with no compass

At that marker we learned how to relate what can be seen on a topo map to true life.  Some people can do this crazy runnin around in the woods without a compass.  Now, that is quite cool!

It was then decided by unanimous vote that it was time for LUNCH!

I suck at Geocaching

Posted in life with a working dog, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by rattlerjen

But my dogs are great at it.

As a search and rescue team member, I am going to have to be good at reading maps and using a compass. I have to be really good at it.  With only one orienteering course in the area, I needed to find another way to practice.

I have had an interest in geocaching.  What would happen if I took away the GPS?  The perfect land navigation practice around.  With over one million geocaches hidden all over the world.  I certainly had enough to choose from where ever I may be.  I could trust the location of the placed caches as they are placed at the coordinates using a GPS and are checked by dozens, even hundreds of others.

All I needed was a topo map of the area, a compass, and a grid square.  The topo maps I printed from my National Geographic Topo! software.  I was good to go.

grid squareI tried to find the first cache by shooting a bearing from the end of the cul-de-sac.  A huge jumble of rose brambles and a need to walk down the middle of a muddy stream put an end to that idea.  Instead I just looked at the map quite closely and used the grid square to determine the distance I would have to walk from the stream to the geocache location on the hill.

Right on the point of the hill I was heading for, there was a huge downed loblolly pine tree still with its green needles on.  This was a perfect target. I counted my steps and found myself right where I thought I would be.  The pine must have fallen quite recently, even pine cones were still dangling from thin branches. I was just on the Southwest edge of a hill before it dipped into a three fingered hollow further west.  The geocache should be right here!  Grom and Heidi spent a good part of the time tripping me, each other, and themselves.  Brand new downed trees were everywhere from the recent snowstorm, winds, and rain.  This was not going to be easy.

After a good thirty minutes of crawling around downed trees and splintered tangles of branches, I sat down.  Both dogs plopped happily at my side.  After only a minute, I decided to go back to the road and start over.  Maybe I should try for the other cache first.  It very well could be that this cache was washed away.  Grom zoomed around the hill with his leash dragging behind him.  After taking a gainer attempting to dodge branches and getting wrapped up I let the dog drag his leash.  I spotted a small plastic box just sitting out in the open covered in camo duct tape.  Ahhh! here we go.  This little guy obviously got washed down the hill.  Happily unsnapping the lid, I found a tiny book with a bunny farming tomatoes on the front.  Skunked!  This was not a cache, this was a letterbox!  I nestled the letterbox securely between the roots of the nearest tree and wandered back to my starting place.


they are there somewhere

This time I shot a bearing from the stream and followed waypoints marked by chosen trees along my path.  Strangely the bearing took me directly along a real path.  About 200 meters from where I started, I beared left and started looking.  Nearly every tree had a small hollow or hole perfect for a cache.  No go.  For fun I walked to the end of the path and its intersection with the road and shot a bearing from there to the cache.  Right back to the same spot. Hrmm.  Back to the road and walked due west.  There was a distinct curve in the road and I shot a bearing off that on the map from where the cache would be.  I walked away from the road until my bearing to the road matched in real life what it said on the map.  Nearly at the same place I was before.  OK it has to be around here somewhere.  I walked a bit further back in the woods and found it in a huge hole in a tree.  The darn thing was so big, both dogs went in!

Finding the cache I could not find earlier by simply shooting a bearing and walking straight along it to the cache worked like a charm.

This map stuff really works.  Cool!

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