COVID-19 Creates Challenging Situation for Search and Rescue Teams
As COVID-19 spreads from urban centers into rural areas including the White Mountains search and rescue (SAR) teams such as Mountain Rescue Service are faced with serious challenges. While all states in the Northeast have some sort of stay-at-home order in effect, all allow for outdoor recreation and the mountains have been busy. Mountain Rescue Service respectfully asks our mountain-loving community to practice self-restraint and responsible recreation for the immediate future. Our team has pledged to recreate close to home and to undertake less risky adventures than we might normally consider reasonable. We ask you to do the same.
This is a challenging situation for SAR teams. With community spread of COVID-19 documented in the White Mountain region, those who recreate irresponsibly are putting paid and volunteer rescue teams at risk should they become injured or lost. This risk goes beyond individuals on the rescue. Precautions we take are not just for ourselves and the patient, but for our families and the community. As one team member wrote following a recent rescue:
“MRS team members are obviously familiar with accepting a level of risk during a rescue. But to me, the difference is that this risk is contagious to others I come in contact with. An avalanche doesn’t follow you home.”
Mountain Rescue Service has a COVID-19 Action Plan in place to guide our operations. We will continue to respond to SAR incidents as requested by NH Fish and Game or the USDA Forest Service however our capacity, like all local SAR teams, has been reduced. Recent incidents have highlighted the difficulty of acquiring the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure our team members and all others participating in the rescue stay safe. Some of our team members are currently unable or unwilling to participate in operations based on their various risk factors. We are stretched thin and we ask you to keep it local and keep it tame. The mountains will be here for you.
–Mountain Rescue Service