I want to pull back a bit a bring into focus what we do and why we do it. Having spent some time with our county SAR team and one of its technical team members, I grappled with a particular question... especially near the end of my time with the team. A great friend of mine, Caleb Hooten who is the Rescue Program Manager and an Engineer with Roseville Fire Department (California) nailed the answer for me. Interestingly though, he heard the question being discussed during our recent workshop held in concert with The Crackerjack Group and El Dorado County Search and Rescue and felt moved to share his heart on the matter.
Purpose. We all need one. Many spend their entire lives looking for it. What happens when we lose our sense of purpose? Well, we become disheartened. Most of us joined our rescue team because of a sense of purpose, but most teams aren’t getting as many calls as they need to feel like they are serving a purpose. We confuse a lack of frequency with a lack of need.
All of us were the new guy at some point. We came through the door ready to make a difference. Our green enthusiasm was quickly tempered by some salty old timer. That veteran knew what we didn’t. Our excitement was unsustainable. We went to all of the trainings we could, eagerly waiting for the call to go out and our time to shine. Eventually the luster started to wear off.
Training became less important to us and we asked ourselves if the sacrifice was worth it. Our friends asked if we’d had any rescues lately and we hung our heads as though it was a shameful thing that no one needed us. To feel needed is a very important thing. Eventually we realized that we either needed to quit or accept that it wasn’t going to be as exciting as we thought it would be. This was a critical time for us, a defining moment if you will. When we got through this phase, we truly became a part of the team.
Unless you are in a very unique place, the odds are that you’re not regularly using your technical rescue skills. It’s hard to stay purposeful. As you gain tenure and become a veteran yourself, it can become hard to continue year in and year out. Finding motivators to create sustainability is key.
Useful and practical training reinvigorates our passion. Taking classes with those outside of our team helps us gain perspective. We realize that we all struggle with similar issues. We see that our team is more successful in some areas and needs improvement in others. It can be hard to see our own weaknesses if we don’t have a reference point. Conversely, we are often hard on ourselves and don’t celebrate our strengths.
We should train with our neighbors. Hopefully, when we do, we create a bond and develop trust. We are confident in them when we call for mutual aid and they are more likely to call us when they are faced with the “big one.” Ideally, we complement each other’s skill sets. One team’s weaknesses are another team’s strengths and vice versa. We also become familiar with each other’s capabilities and equipment.
Another great way to stay engaged is to teach. This is a great way to learn the details of the information we are presenting. Instructors are simply those who are willing to study a subject and put themselves in front of an audience to present it. You don’t have to know everything. The next best thing to performing a rescue yourself is giving someone else the knowledge to perform that rescue. The satisfaction of seeing the light come on for someone is indescribable.
The point of all of this is that we have a purpose. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that or become discouraged. We all need inspiration from time to time. The key is finding the motivational tools that work for you throughout the different seasons of your SAR career. Ultimately, no one needs search and rescue, until they really need them. Let’s be ready when they do.
Peace on your Days...