People go missing every day. Chances are they’re still alive, but they’re injured or lost and need to be rescued.
Volunteers with Pierce County Explorer Search and Rescue go on numerous missions to help find missing people. Once an alert is sent, volunteers meet and search for 48 or more hours.
Chase Woolley, 17, has been a part of this program for more than four years and says he enjoys every minute of it.
“This program has greatly affected my life,” Woolley said. “Being able to possibly save someone’s life is one of the most rewarding ways to spend my time.”
Woolley’s father, a firefighter for the Tukwila Fire Department, was the one who read an advertisement for the Pierce County Explorer Search and Rescue in the newspaper one morning, and encouraged his son to join.
Woolley made his father join him and now they look at rescue searching as father-son bonding time along with making a difference in their community.
The searches are associated in Pierce County but ultimately volunteers can be sent anywhere within the Northwest coast, if needed.
The sheriff of the county overlooks the operation and calls the searches.
“Being prepared is half the battle,” Woolley said. The calls are sporadic, so he has a bag ready in his garage. Inside contains first aid, food, clothes, water, sleeping bag, tarps and miscellaneous survival equipment such as flashlights or a compass.
As soon as Woolley receives a call, he drops what he’s doing and heads straight to the location he has been assigned.
Volunteers meet at a parking lot nearest the search location. After 48 hours of searching, they return to base to restock supplies, have a break and sleep. If the person still hasn’t been found, another search will begin for another 48 hours.
Or until found or if the sheriff cancels the search. A sheriff will only cancel a search if it has been an extended amount of time with no further evidence.
Pierce County is one of the most qualified ground units in the state. It has four main ranks; the first one is a brushmonkey. These volunteers are amateurs and newest to the whole system, similar to a private in the military.
The second are the team leaders. They are in charge of the brushmonkeys.
Third are the field leaders, who are in charge of three or more teams and are given search assignment details.
The final and highest of the ranks are the operation leaders who are in charge of the search and get the direct call from the sheriff.
Woolley is a field leader and once he turns 26, is expected to be promoted to an operation leader.
Each volunteer is trained before stepping foot into the action. Four training courses are included in the classroom first aid and learning directions, along with use of a compass.
The second course teaches students how to apply the entire classroom-based learning into the field for a full 48 hours.
The third course is all about endurance; a group receives a map with points within two days and roughly 15 miles. Members hike and camp through all types of weather and terrains.
The last course is a mock search. A team of four people search for a missing subject and apply all previous courses and knowledge.
“Because I want to double major in both video productions and athletic training, this program has showed me how to be a leader and to fight through tough situations,” Woolley said. “I have a long road ahead of me and this will make me not only physically but mentally stronger.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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