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Joshua Tree National Park Looking For New Members For Park's Search and Rescue Team


Joshua Tree National Park contains some spectacular scenery, but responding to emergencies in this rugged terrain requires trained personnel. Photo by betsyweber via flicrk and Creative Commons.

If you live in the vicinity of Joshua Tree National Park and have considered joining the park's search and rescue team, make plans to attend a meeting at the park on February 2. The gathering will provide information about a variety of opportunities with the team, and the requirements for serving in each type of assignment.

Joshua Tree National Park includes some spectacular terrain in Southern California, and visitors occasionally find themselves in difficulty in those rugged rock formations and vast areas of desert. When emergencies occur, the Joshua Tree Search and Rescue Team (known as JOSAR) is called upon to try to bring the incident to a safe conclusion.

Trained volunteers are a key part of JOSAR, and information for potential new members will be provided at the meeting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 2 at the Black Rock Visitor Center, 9800 Black Rock Canyon Road, Yucca Valley, CA 92284. To reach the Black Rock Visitor Center, take Joshua Lane south from the town of Yucca Valley to Black Rock Canyon Road.

No previous training or experience is required, and the park provides extensive training in land search, tracking, incident management and high-angle rope rescue techniques. Volunteers may participate as a rescue member, field searcher or in a support capacity for team operations.

JOSAR Members Perform a Variety of Functions

According to a park spokesperson, "This team serves many functions, including searching for lost hikers, rescuing injured or stranded climbers, and supporting the park rangers in various visitor safety activities. If you enjoy teamwork, believe in helping others, and are inspired by the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park, join us for this meeting to learn about the many opportunities that exist. Different levels of participation come with differing requirements, so this meeting is vital to see where your skills can best be shared."

Search and rescue work can be very rewarding, but it's also physically and mentally demanding, so there are some requirement to be met in order to participate.

JOSAR members must be at least 18 years old; comfortable with heights; physically capable of working in rugged terrain in extreme weather conditions; a team player; available to respond to calls on short notice; able to stay composed under stressful situations; and, comfortable working with injured patients. There will be mandatory skill and physical testing for team members, along with minimum attendance and financial requirements for the purchase of personal gear.

Rescues of Stranded Hiker and Fallen Climber Illustrate JOSAR Missions

What kinds of missions might future team members face? Two incidents at the park in recent months offers some examples.

At about 2 p.m. on August 11, 2013, the park was notified that a hiker was caught between two rocks at the Quail Springs picnic area, a popular day hiking area. Rangers and a JOSAR volunteer responded and found a 37-year old man from Los Angeles wedged between two large boulders.

The victim explained that he had scrambled down from the top of one boulder and became positioned so that he could neither ascend or descend safely. The rescue team set up a lowering system and the JOSAR volunteer was lowered to the man and attached him to a rope; the victim was then lowered safely to the ground.

On January 1, 2014, Kennya Pimentel, a 20-year-old resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, fell about six feet while climbing Hemmingway Buttress in Joshua Tree National Park, and became wedged in a crevice approximately 100 feet above the ground. Ms. Pimentel was not wearing a safety helmet and initially complained of both head and hip injuries.

Park rangers, JOSAR volunteers and San Bernardino County Sheriffs deputies responded to the scene. JOSAR team members used a high angle rescue system to stabilize Ms. Pimentel, extract her from the crevice, and safely lower her to the ground. She was then airlifted to Desert Regional Hospital, where it was determined that she had fortunately sustained no serious injuries. Total time for the rescue: about five hours.

So, how did you spend your New Year's Day? If the possibility of spending a holiday, or any other day, helping someone who is lost, stranded or injured at this park appeals to you, and you believe you meet the qualifications described above, consider heading out to the meeting on Sunday afternoon.

If you have questions or need more information about the meeting, you can email Kevin Buckley at the park at [email protected].

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