News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle
July 18, 2019
Wahkiakum County Search and Rescue
The images seen on television showing people searching for a missing person gives the impression to many people that the searchers are just going for a casual walk. Nothing is farther from the truth. I had the opportunity to sit down with Arlene Stefan and her daughter, Jean Kelsey, who are both a part of the local search and rescue team and listen to them explain some of the processes it takes to become a part of the search and rescue team.
Arlene, who is now 85, has been a part of search and rescue for the past 19 years. In the mid-1980s she spent 15 years with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and as an associate advisor for the Explorer Scout Troop. She and Jean are board members for the Wahkiakum County Search and Rescue.
Jean informed me that those who are interested in becoming a part of the search and rescue team need to take it serious. Search and rescue operations occur to save lives and to help reduce the suffering of family members whose loved ones are lost or missing, to conduct search and rescue operations, evidence searches and other operations as directed by the sheriff through the use of Search and Rescue officers and volunteer members. Wahkiakum County Search and Rescue currently has over 40 men and women who volunteer their time and energy so others may live. To join our team contact Beau Renfro or Vernon Barton through the sheriff's department.
There is much to learn first before anyone goes into the field. Before one has any training or can go to the academy, a background check must be done through the Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Department. You must be at least 14 years of age. Each person who successfully completes the program receives a Department of Emergency Management number that proves they are qualified to work in search and rescue. Jean received her certificate of completion in the academy this year and has already worked on a rescue.
The Cowlitz County Search and Rescue Academy is in Kelso, and once a month in January, February, and March from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. their intense training takes place. In their April evaluation they are able to demonstrate their proficiency in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, survival skills, basic radio communication protocols working with the sheriff's radio frequencies, knot tying, land navigation, clue awareness, the use of maps and compass, GPS, subject and searcher safety, wilderness, patient assessment, first aid, search techniques, and much more.
Jean finished this last weekend with a basic class learning how to track people by the nation's leader in tracking, Joel Hardin from Professional Tracking Services. Jean and Arlene are on the board and part of a great team of volunteers dedicated to their community. Arlene still goes on searches, but her expertise is used at the base camp where she keeps track of everyone.
I have touched only the tip of the iceberg concerning what these ladies have done for the community by their selfless acts of kindness not only in search and rescue, but in life. Wahkiakum County can be proud of their volunteers helping our community.
The Grays River Grange will begin holding their Farmers Market next Tuesday, 2-6 p.m., at the Grange Hall in Grays River.
Jean and Arlene