Thursday, July 21, 2016

Major SAR at SLBE

It has been very busy at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The weather has been perfect for visitors to enjoy their summer here in Northern Michigan, and with high visitation comes the high probability for accidents to occur. Recently we concluded a body recovery mission on Big Glen Lake, which is partly on park property. Many different agencies were involved, including the Michigan State Police, Department of Natural Resources, Grand Traverse and Leelanau County Sheriff's Offices, Glen Lake Fire Department, National Park Service, and even the Coast Guard.
Glen Lake Fire Department's boat
This was the first time that I had been a part of a recovery mission, as opposed to a rescue mission. The physical aspect was trying, but there was also a mental aspect because of the circumstances. I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by a talented and experienced team.
NPS boat: The Raptor
I worked with Ranger Jamie Westenfelder, and our job was to help set the perimeter around the Glen Lake Fire Department's boat. They had an ROV (remote operated vehicle) with side-scan sonar, a camera, and a propeller that was searching underwater. The event was covered heavily by the local media, so many people knew better than to come close to the boats. On the 5th day of the operation, the Michigan State Police had a cadaver dog assist on the search, which ultimately helped end the mission. It was a great feeling being able to provide closure for the family, yet the circumstances still left for a somber mood. However, being able to witness and learn from such great teamwork, perseverance, professionalism, and leadership was a privilege and will stick with me as I move forward in my career.
Big Glen Lake
With any incident comes lots of work behind the scenes, and a Major SAR (search and rescue/recover) is no exception. My supervisor, District Ranger Andy Blake, showed me the process of how to properly manage such a large event. He explained how to fill out the Major SAR Report, displayed how and why he kept track of every single detail of the mission, showed great empathy and support to the family, and kept calm and focused throughout all of the operations while being a great leader.

It won't always be easy, but this event has helped me to look even more forward to such a rewarding career. Only a few more weeks left at SLBE, let's make the most of it! Until next time...

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