How to conduct search and rescue operations at Black Rock
This page suggests how to conduct Search & Rescue operations either
for members of your own group or as assistance to others you meet at
This page also has a companion,
"How to avoid needing a rescue at Black Rock".
Though Search & Rescue is not the purpose of Stratofox,
we've done enough of them to post some notes from our experience.
Our experience has led us to believe this is good advice.
But use common sense.
We can't guarantee any results in circumstances you encounter.
We'll continue to update these pages over time.
- Search teams must be prepared themselves.
- Don't let anyone leave on a search without GPS, radio, water, food, lights,
warm clothing or blankets, etc. Everyone who leaves camp should be
prepared in case they get stuck and need to call for and wait out a rescue.
(See "How to avoid needing a rescue at Black Rock".)
The idea is that each S&R team should be prepared in case they
get stuck and need to survive overnight for their own rescue to arrive.
- Have more than one person on each S&R team.
- Each vehicle should have at least a driver and navigator.
The driver needs to keep focused on driving, including looking for other
vehicles on the playa from all directions.
The navigator directs the
driver as things are visible with binoculars or, off the playa for roads
The navigator or additional passengers should use binoculars to maximize
visibility within the mirage constraints on the playa.
- For long searches, each team should have two vehicles.
- If possible, S&R teams should consist of at least two vehicles if you
have enough people if they have to venture far from camp.
At night time, this is more important.
During the daytime it isn't as crucial as long as they can call back to
base by radio.
This allows each S&R team to have its own self-rescue capability.
- Have a way to tell everyone the search is over.
- The search parties need a recall plan of some kind.
Make sure everyone is monitoring the right frequency so they know if
the object of their search has been found.
- Don't leave the base camp empty.
- Someone should stay at camp, both to coordinate the search via radio
and in case the people being searched for happen to return.
- Search teams should check in regularly.
- Make sure the search coordinator knows roughly where you are.
Let them know before going into areas where you may lose radio contact.
The idea is that if they have to come looking for you, they should have
some recent "last known location" information with which to start the
- Don't get stuck trying to effect a rescue.
- If you find the people you're looking for but they're stuck in a place
you can't reach (i.e. in the mud), avoid getting stuck trying to get them
out. As long as you're not also stuck, you have the ability to evacuate
them and come back for the vehicle later.
- Be prepared to render aid.
- If you're first on the scene, check what assistance is needed,
including First Aid if necessary.
If you find people who have been without water and are dehydrated,
give them water.
Prolonged dehydration will eventually lead to shock, especially after
dark when it cools off - have a blanket or coat ready.
If you find more serious injuries, you may need to evacuate the
victims to get professional assistance.
(Always use your GPS to mark the location of any vehicle left in the desert,
no matter what its condition.)
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