Photo Challenge: Symbol


This is the symbol for the Southern Arizona Rescue Association. The organization that I volunteer with.  It is more than just a symbol for and non-profit.  Its a symbol for self sacrificing individuals that come together to perform some daunting tasks at the edge of medical response system in wilderness areas; and provide the safety net that southern Arizona has come to expect.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symbol.”


Cellphones & Wilderness Travel

More and more people are relying on cellphones and smartphone applications for safety and navigation in wilderness areas. People seem to push themselves beyond their comfort zone using a cellphone and 3G or LTE driven navigation programs like googlemaps. Once applications like this lose connection to the network they are useless.   Additionally, the accuracy and availability of map data for even the more popular trail leave something to be desired. There are some programs for both Android and iPhone that offer both accuracy and offline modes (no cellphone connection required) like OruxMaps for android and Motion X for iPhone. Beyond that, battery life of the phone raises concern. According to Tom’s Guide, the average for smartphones is 8 hours 27 minutes. You can mitigate some of this by carrying a backup battery for your phone and keeping it on airplane mode when it’s not in use; but there is still a risk in relying on something that is that battery intensive.

Tucson and the Catalina Mountains have fairly decent coverage and due to the terrain you can get line of sight to an antenna most anywhere. There are towers located on both Mount Bigelow and Mount Lemmon on Radio Ridge. Additionally, there are some towers located on Swan Road that have decent line of sight into the canyons. However if you are in a dip or around a bend don’t expect anything. Another consideration is distance to the towers. Just because you can see Oro Valley, Tucson or even San Manuel doesn’t mean you will be able to use those towers. In populated areas towers generally use less power to make up their cells and limit the number of users per tower and then the power level of your cellphone may not be able to reach all the way to those towers.

TEN Systems-2     So how do you avoid these aggravations and navigate reliably in the wilderness? Get a map. Get a simple compass. Then practice using them and make sure they are in your bag when you go hiking or mountain biking. I’m not saying don’t use cellphones at all, they’re great tools and very convenient; just don’t go out and do something that you wouldn’t do without a cellphone.

How Cellphones Work

Additional Reading$1068

New Tires for the Tacoma


Recently I went on a drive through Redington Pass leading north east out of Tucson then going south on San Pedro River Road.  Its was all going fine until the turn onto San Pedro River Road when the tire pressure sensor when off.  Got out to take look and sure enough the sidewall was blown out.  After spending a few minutes changing out the tire I was back on the road.



Tacoma-4     Now these tires had about 12,000 miles on them.  I put 50 miles on the full size spare to get it back to Tucson.  The next day I went to get a tire priced out and there is a safety rule that most places won’t sell you a new tire by itself unless they are within 2/32nd of an inch of the rest of the tires.  My plan was to have them switch the other to the spare and put a new tire on in its place, thinking the new tire would be the same size and the barley used spare… wrong.  The spare measured at a 10, the others at an 8 and the new tire what at a 14.  That means my tires had worn to about 60% tread in 12,000 miles and my spare had somehow worn to 70% in 50 miles.  I have yet to find and explanation on why my spare had less tread than a new tire but the wear on the other tires was not normal.  After doing some research and reading through reviews I found that the stock tires that are put on the Tacoma are pretty sub-par and in some cases dangerous.  In my case I’m glad nothing more serious happened.


I ended up getting four Duratrac tires with an amazing sale price from Discount Tire here in town and got the tires a little bit bigger (265/75 R17).  The did increase road noise slightly but not much.  The next weekend I got to test them out on a power line road during a callout.  They preformed great and they ride beautifully and the little bit of added clearance worked out great.



24 Hour SAR Pack

This is my first attempt at video, be kind 🙂

I just wanted to share what I carry in my 24 Hour Search and rescue Pack during missions.  It does change for the seasons so I may update it for cold weather later in the fall.  For now this is what I carry in the summer and add water based on the temperature. Enjoy!

SAR Field Team Leader – Resources

A recent seminar/discussion group about Field Team Leadership was conducted and led to some very good questions.  I’m posting the resources that we used for this, I’m sure there are more so if you know of something go ahead and put it down in the comments… as long as it pertains to SAR operations & the Field Team leader.



Seven Components of NPS Operational Leadership

OODA Loop decision making process

Situational Leadership

Crew Resource Management

Emotional Intelligence: There are several free tests out there but the best resource that I have used personally is the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0


Risk Assessment

SAR Tri-fold Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment SPE and GAR



Case Study

Tunnel Creek


Additional Reading

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills

Phycology of Search and Rescue

Strength Finder 2.0: Great resource to identify your personal strengths.

Note:  I’m not claiming any of these documents as my own, just collecting them all in one place.  If there are any copyright issues just send me a message.

Full Member!

On January 15th the board of directors for Southern Arizona Rescue Association

put it to a vote weather to accept me as a full member or not.  I GOT IT!!


I’ve spent a lot of time training and as assisting with callouts for the one and a half years that I’ve been with a SARA.  First and foremost I need to thank my wife and family for helping me along the way and being understanding of the serious amount of training it has taken to get to this point.  Next to my bosses and my work for letting me take the time to go help people when they need it.  Then to all of the people of SARA for training me and showing me the ropes.

I’ve found great joy in what this organization has allowed me to do for my community and will be forever appreciative of the skills that I have learned and will continue to learn.  I was fortunate enough to have people that have done this for over 50 years, and many other experienced technicians, train me and share what they have  learned.  Hopefully I can take that and put it to good use in the field and then pass that onto other search and rescue technicians as I get more experience.


Just to give you an idea of the amount of time that is required to become

a search and rescue technician here are some of my stats:

Total Missions: 19

Mission Hours: 57

Training Hours: 318

Thats 375 hours in a year and half were I helped about 21 people and four dogs get to a better situation.  Sometimes my contribution was small, or just on standby incase more manpower was needed but it was all important and changed someone life for the better.