By Robin Alberti
Thursday night, March 26, Rich Cogliano, a representative from the Vermont Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, was at the firehouse in Killington conducting a tabletop exercise with Killington Search and Rescue (KSAR). Also in attendance were representatives from Killington Ski Patrol, 911 Dispatch, the State Game Warden, Killington Fire Department and Vermont State Police.
The purpose for this gathering was to bring together key personnel with the goal of coordinating and improving the operational plans and policies for a search and rescue incident with potential for injury within KSAR’s response area.
A scenario was given, with information on weather conditions for that particular day, as well as recent snow and temperatures in the area. In this exercise, the State Police received a 911 call from the wife of a man who had gone hiking in the morning, yet had not returned by 5:15 p.m. Then the chain of command was laid out as to which agencies were notified, in what order and by what means, and how the “I am responding” system was activated. The situation was followed through from the initial 911 call to deploying the KSAR team to locate a missing hiker in winter conditions.
The representatives from the various state and local departments did exactly what they would if this were an actual 911 call. The KSAR team used the given information, clues for where the car was parked, his departure time and intended route, and their extensive knowledge of the topography of the land and hiking trails, logging roads, potential hazards on routes, and data from typical mistakes hikers make, to devise a strategy of how and where to look for this man, what equipment to use, and how to split up search teams with a balance of skills and decide on a plan of attack. All KSAR members discussed their points of view and specific knowledge and how to make adjustments to the plan as more information was gathered.
Many who take advantage of the beautiful outdoor recreation opportunities this area has to offer do not think about the potential dangers that lurk. Whether you are an experienced backcountry hiker or skier/rider or new to the area, there is always the potential to get lost or hurt while in the wilderness.
The skills, dedication, physical capabilities and training these members of Killington Search and Rescue possess were impressive. We do not often think about those worst-case scenarios, the “what ifs,” but these dedicated men and women do. They take their job, which is voluntary and difficult as well as mentally and physically demanding, very seriously. They have weekly meeting and do training exercises. They have a canine on the team as well.
Many of the KSAR volunteers you probably know from their other jobs and businesses in the area, but had no idea that they are also highly trained and skilled to help save lives in emergency situations.
Killington Search and Rescue members include: Robert Giolito (team leader), Andy Weinberg, Charles Piso, Jon Pendergast, Josh Eckler, Cathy Capetta, Connor McGrath, Murray McGrath, Carl Staley, Dave Coppock, Joel Blumenthal and Bob Zazzera.