Runners seek role on rescue team

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004

Some people who run for the fun of it may soon be called upon to run because they're needed.

Juneau resident Don Eagle said he believes runners can play a role in Juneau's search-and-rescue community. He is looking forward to running to save someone else's life.

"When someone's missing, you really want them found," he said. People who run on Juneau's trails could help, he added.

Steve Handy of the Juneau Mountain Rescue team said it's an idea members of his group have been discussing. He has been talking with Eagle and expects to have about four runners training with his group in the next several weeks.

In the case of a lost hiker, for example, people who know Juneau's trails and are adept at running them could narrow the search area, Handy said. Although mountain rescue team members specialize in making their own vertical trails, they do some work on roads more frequently traveled.

"We're an all-volunteer group," Handy said. Juneau Mountain Rescue even depends on donations from the community to replace equipment, he noted.

Eagle said the runners he has been working to get involved are looking to free up mountain rescue team members to focus on what they do better than anyone else.

When people are reported lost in and around Juneau, state troopers are responsible for coordinating the search. Trooper Sgt. David Tracy said Juneau is fortunate, compared with some other Alaska communities, to have so many people volunteering their specialized skills to searches.

In addition to the mountain rescue team, troopers can call for help from tracking-dog handlers from SEADOGS (Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search) and divers from SEAS (Southeast Aquatic Safety Inc.) he said.

Tracy said he would never turn down volunteers who could bring something to a search without becoming liabilities.

"Anybody who is directly involved must be approved," Bruce Bowler of SEADOGS said. He said searches can be slowed by the need to look for some of the volunteer searchers.

But qualified people are always needed on the rosters of available searchers, he added.

Sometimes people who want to be involved in what they see as the excitement of search missions don't consider the hardships, Bowler said. Often when the stories have a happy ending, the missing people are found "cold and wet." The people who find them end up cold and wet, too.

Eagle said he wouldn't expect searching for people to be easy. "I'm in awe of what these guys do."

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