For KISAR’s March training, we partnered with the USCG and the Alaska Avalanche School to bring 3 instructors to Kodiak to conduct a Level 1 avalanche class. In order to encourage the widest range of participation, the 18 students were split 6 from KISAR, 6 from USCG, and 6 from the general public. The weather over the weekend was great and Kodiak is finally experiencing an interesting snowpack. A huge thanks to the Alaska Avalanche School for helping make this happen!
KISAR is planning an Incident Response Incident Commander (IRIC) course as our January training. The dates will be January 22nd and 29th. This is a basic search management course for those who are tasked with the initial management of a search. The training will be set up as a virtual (Zoom) course and will most likely have participants from other places in Alaska besides Kodiak. The Bayside Fire Station Training Room will not be available due to COVID protocols. This IRIC will require participating members to work independently at their own locations or team up with someone else who is taking the course. There are numerous prerequisite steps to participate including installing software, reading manuals, and watching instructional videos as outlined in the document Nick sent to members. These tasks take time, so participating members should allocate sufficient time prior to the course to accomplish what is expected.
For KISAR’s December training we brought Deb Ajango of Safety Ed to Kodiak for an intensive weekend Wilderness First Aid course. Deb is an amazing instructor and we always enjoy her deep experience and compelling delivery.
KISAR has developed a series of medical quick reference cards based on Deb’s WFA courses that are available on the kisar.org links page. They are jpeg images that can be downloaded and placed in a photos app on your phone for reference in the field. Here is the infection card:
KISAR will be holding a general membership meeting on Wednesday, Nov 17 at 7:00 PM at Bayside Fire Hall. Following the meeting we will present information regarding a Two Tensioned Rope System (TTRS) . TTRS is the technical rescue rigging standard for search and rescue and allows the safe raise and lower of a rescuer with a litter and/or rescue subject across a variety of slope angles. Because Covid has been so disruptive to our regular training schedule and we are all a little rusty, we will be concentrating on rope work fundamentals like scene and edge safety, understanding rigging hardware, knots and anchors, litter rigging, and building and operating a mirrored raise and lower rope system.
We will be observing current Covid precautions during the meeting and training. Be vaccinated, wear a well-fitting mask, maintain social distance, and please stay home if you are feeling sick. A negative Covid NAAT or PCR test within 48 hours of a KISAR meeting or training is a suitable substitute for full Covid vaccination.
On Saturday March 20, KISAR members climbed Pyramid Mountain to the upper Jibber Bowl and conducted snow stability tests including hand hardness assessments and conducting extended column tests (ECTs). New snow had fallen overnight and during the day but most of the snowpack was a series of alternating layers of pencil- or knife-hardness ice lenses with fist-hardness, poorly consolidated, old round-grain snow (sugar) between. Pits gave varying results depending on general wind exposure at the location.
We were hoping to cover safe avalanche terrain travel, avalanche awareness, and snowpack stability assessment this month. The snowpack is currently rock solid so not very interesting to do stability tests on, but we will tentatively stick to the topic and hope for an (unlikely) change in the weather patterns.
Please find the time to watch all 5 parts of this American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) lecture on YouTube, especially if you have limited avalanche training. Sadly it’s just a video camera recording a public event, so the video and audio quality are rather poor, but it is still the most comprehensive and professional treatment of the topic I can locate online that is free.
We will discuss next Saturday’s actual training at the Wednesday March 17 KISAR general meeting at Bayside at 7 PM. Please consider watching the lecture as Wednesday’s training topic that would otherwise normally follow the meeting. We will have a short presentation to underscore some of the main points made in the lecture and present local resources to help in avalanche decision making.
The wearing of masks and all the current COVID safety protocols will be observed. Community transmission is low, and many have already received some part of their vaccination regimen. But out of respect for the un- or partially-vaccinated in our community, we will stay vigilant.
On Saturday Feb 20, KISAR members met at the Pyramid Pass parking area to conduct a field exercise with avalanche transceivers. We ran through a number of demonstrations of how modern transceivers interpret flux lines and how a buried beacon’s physical orientation affects the searcher’s path to the victim. We practiced multiple burial scenarios, demonstrating the transceiver’s mark function. Then we simulated an avalanche accident scene with 2 buried transceivers and had all members practice going through the signal search, coarse search, and fine search for each victim. We practiced probing, and discussed effective digging technique for various burial depths, for a either single rescuer or a group of rescuers. We also performed a probe line demonstration.
KISAR will hold its general membership meeting Thursday February 18 at 7 PM at Bayside Fire Hall.
This will be our first in-person meeting since before the spike in COVID cases in the fall. With the last official positive test for COVID-19 occurring on Feb 12 and at that time there were only 4 active cases in the community, we feel it can be safe for us to meet in person observing all appropriate COVID safety measures. Please wear a good-fitting mask, socially distance, etc.
Following the general membership meeting, Philip will present a slideshow and lecture on avalanche transceiver theory and use that will lay the groundwork for the scheduled outdoor avalanche transceiver training on Saturday, Feb 20.
Last spring when COVID first emerged I created a geocaching course out at Termination Point for our April training as a safe way for members to do something SAR-adjacent when we could not get together for a normal training. I have obtained workers comp insurance again for KISAR members from now until December 20 to repeat this training. If anyone did not have an opportunity in the spring to run the course, or if you did it in the spring and would like to do it again, this will serve as our December training topic.
The purpose of this training is to practice navigation with the Gaia GPS app (https://www.gaiagps.com/ or another gps phone app of your choice). Below I will provide the latitude and longitude for 11 Navy Seal course orienteering points. Some reside in parts of the Termination Point forest that very few people visit.
At each of the 11 locations you will find a small Tyvek sign with “KISAR” in blue permanent marker, below which there will be either a letter or number (see the attached example; the # will be replaced with an alpha-numeric character). You will need to record this letter or number from each location. After locating all 11 symbols, arrange them to form a common phrase (yes, it is a puzzle, but this shouldn’t be too challenging). After you complete these tasks let me know directly via an email (don’t reply to kisar emails which go to everyone). Every KISAR member who completes this training by December 20 wins a sew-on KISAR patch (yay, prizes!).
On this course you may encounter swamps, devil’s club and salmonberry patches, dense forest and windfall depending on how you navigate. I know the area well and it took me over 2.5 hours and I traveled 6 miles to complete it. You should assume it will take you longer, so do NOT wait until the afternoon to get started. I HIGHLY recommend you record your track in Gaia because it forces your phone to update your location constantly. If you don’t record, your phone may take a long time to acquire your location again in the dense trees. If you need to bone up on your Gaia GPS app skills, this is a short but very comprehensive tutorial: https://youtu.be/KhZlQuvX-Uc.
In order to enter the required waypoints, you will need to be able to do is create a new waypoint, and then change the latitude and longitude values to move that waypoint to the correct location. You can enter these at home before heading out. Here are the 11 geocache locations:
Please note that the free version of Gaia does not offer the use of cached maps for offline use, and part of this course does not have cell coverage. Keep that in mind before you head out. Gaia is an excellent app and essential for the work we do. Consider getting the basic paid version. I am working on getting a KISAR team discount through Gaia.
Treat this like a real training and bring a well-provisioned pack with communication resources like an inReach (at least half the course has no cell coverage) and a phone battery backup, food & water, clothing, first aid & safety gear, and maybe even a light shelter and stove. Microspikes (or similar) are suggested and I highly recommend trekking poles. There could be bears around so take the normal precautions like make noise and carry bear spray. For safety reasons I recommend doing this in pairs so if there is someone you feel safe going with (you have been in quarantine with them) proceed as normal. If you go with another person that you have not been in quarantine with, please drive out in separate cars and travel together but stay appropriately physically distanced during the day. If someone really wants to do this training but can’t find a partner, send Philip an email and I would be happy to tag along. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email Philip.
Please let the KISAR board of directors know that you are headed out and send us another email after you return so we know who is out there. Have fun and be safe!
KISAR members met at the Pyramid Mountain parking area at 10 am and hiked up to top of Jibber Bowl at about 1500’. They assembled the SKED litter and then belayed a simulated patient down with a harness-mounted belay device and occasionally off to alder anchors. The training started in the alpine on steeper ground where the braking was more of a challenge. A USCG helicopter visited the training area and KISAR members practiced vectoring the aircraft to their location via commands over radios.