Mock Search Organizing


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So you've volunteered to organize a mock search? Thank you! It's a lot of work. Several of us have done it. This page will help you too. If you've organized a mock search, please edit this page to include your thoughts and techniques for success.

Thanks to Roy Davidson for much of this text.


[edit] Recruit a planning group

If possible, develop a group to help with the planning.

Determine what planning information should not be widely known. This may affect who can be in your planning group.

[edit] Goals

Decide what the goals of the training exercise are.

Decide what the goals of this mock search will be and whether the emphasis will be for the overhead team or for the searchers. In some cases the emphasis can be on both. These notes concentrate mostly on a mock search for searchers.

For example, if the intent is to test the the overhead team, the members of the team should not be involved in the planning. It might be intended that they not even be aware that a mock search is being planned.

Some sample goals:

  • GPS navigation
  • radio communication
  • urban search techniques
  • training for new search managers
  • allow members who are at risk of losing their certification to partipate

[edit] Participants

Determine major participants.

Some participants requested before:

  • PCSAR members (of course)
  • RCMP

[edit] Set a date

Set a suitable date that will give the best turnout. Announce the date and invite participants well in advance.

People tend to forget about the mock. Dates that are soon after the monthly meeting may work better because the members will have the reminder from the monthly announcements and from the meeting.

  • Check with participants for possible conflicts.

Mini-mocks on the evening of our regular training are often moved up to start at 18:30 or 18:00.

[edit] Announce

It may be useful to announce some of the detail of the mock as an enticement to attend.

Announce the date. Invite the participants.

  • Give each group as much lead time as possible.
  • Gently twist the arm of important participants that are otherwise reluctant.

[edit] Size

Try to determine how many people will be participating in the search. It will be necessary to know how many teams you will have and of what size of a search area you will need. The size of the overhead team will also depend on how many searchers you expect. Keep in mind the fact that the number of searchers may be less or more than anticipated, so try to develop scenarios that can be reduced or expanded, depending on numbers.

Decide how long the exercise will take.

[edit] Scenario

Sketch the scenario.

Develop the scenario. The scenario must suit the terrain.

some possibilities from our past:

  • hospital walk-away
  • alzheimer's victim
  • diabetic
  • dispondant
  • lost child
  • visitor
  • foul play
  • hiding
  • animal attack
  • vehicle breakdown
  • delayed hunter
  • injured hunter
  • weather prevents travel
  • downed plane
  • disaster
  • lost vehicle
  • accident
  • evidence
  • rescue.
  • Type of Setting.

Develop a profile of the subjects(s) including name, age, health (nature of any injury, signs, symptoms), clothing and footwear, behavior, what they were doing there, etc. as well as a cause of crisis

  • Subject Profile(s).
    • Name.
    • Age.
    • Classification (Dispondant, Berry Picker, etc.)
    • Clothing.
  • Cause of crisis.
  • Nature of injuries, signs, symptoms.
  • Before crisis behaviour.
  • After crisis behaviour.

Unless there is some specific aspect of searching that you wish to emphasize, try to consider "something for everyone." Consider what will be the likely boundaries of the search areas and try to plant something in each area so that each search team will have something substantive to do. Decide whether specialized equipment will be needed, eg. quads or snowmobiles. Consider using props to give reality to the whole scenario, e.g. Have the search victim's vehicle at the PLS; have RCMP at the search site; have the media show up. You may want to consider some of the following in order to have something for everyone:

  • consider having the rabbit(s) lay tracks and clues exactly corresponding to the scenario;
  • have the rabbit travel through more than one search area, planting clues along the way;
  • have multiple rabbits;
  • have real rabbits who will be coached on interacting with rescuers;
  • have one of the rabbits readily found but needing special medical attention or extraction techniques;
  • have outside parties enter into the search area and contaminate or complicate the search;
  • have the rabbit double back;
  • have an obvious track cross a hard or rocky area to be picked up elsewhere;
  • without letting anyone know, give one of the searchers an envelope to be opened at a specific hour. The envelope will contain instructions for that searcher to suddenly suffer a particular medical condition or injury that that team, and the overhead team, must then deal with;
  • have a rabbit with psychological or emotional problems that create irrational behavior - outside the norm. Consider having the rabbit, once found, respond and interact with searchers in such a manner as will challenge the searchers ability to complete the rescue;
  • have natural features (rivers, cliffs, roads, etc.) challenge the searchers;
  • have searchers encounter wildlife or unanticipated hazards. This can be done by planting a sign describing the hazard. E.g. You have encountered a large brown bear standing over something that it appears to have been burying. E.g. You have just heard a gunshot to the northwest.

If the search requires special skills (e.g. High angle rescue) but you don't have the resources to handle that skill, determine how that situation will be handled when encountered.

[edit] Real vs. Pretend

Determine what portions of the scenario will be acted out exactly and what portions will be recreated so as to assume they've actually happened.

For example, will the mock victim actually be out as long as the scenario says he has been. What resources will be assumed to be available but won't actually. For example, food brought in or a helicopter.

  • From the victims' point of view.
  • From the searchers' point of view. The portions that will be recreated may require special planning to carry them off. PCSAR has a bag full of props in the equipment shed that can be used as clues, including old cell phone, clothes, shoes, etc.

There's a dummy of a child. We can also borrow the fire department's Rescue Randy.

[edit] Area

Pick the search area.

Once you have determined the site, secure the necessary permissions for the use of the land. If you intend to alter the terrain in any way, get the permission of the land owner. Consider whether you will need to notify neighbors or others who may be affected by the search, bearing in mind the fact that searchers may end up outside the search area. If the weather is subject to change, how will that change affect the site and the search, e.g. What will happen if it snows or rains?

  • Arrange permission with necessary authorities.

Recheck with the landowner on the day of the search.

[edit] Often used areas

West end of Town

[edit] Equipment

In preparation for the search day, ensure that all equipment that might be necessary is on hand and available to the overhead team. Ensure radios are charged.

Make sure that there is someone to drive the mobile command post.

[edit] Props

Ensure that any props and clues are in place.

[edit] Pick mock victims

Pick the volunteer(s) to act as mock victims.

[edit] Mock victim safety

Plan how to maintain the safety of the mock victims.

[edit] Brief the mock victims/witnesses

  • Safety.
  • How to help make the training exercise a successful learning experience.
  • Subject profile and expected behaviour.
  • Appropriate planting of clues.
  • How to communicate nature of injuries.

Have rabbit(s) who will lay the trail and clues exactly coinciding with the scenario. If having live rabbits, ensure they are capable, adequately prepared and have proper clothing, food and necessities. Consider any hazards and how they should be handled. Always ensure the safety of the rabbits and all search participants.

On the search day, if having live rabbits, send them out with specific instructions at times corresponding to the scenario. Brief the rabbits thoroughly, including there expected behavior on being found.

[edit] Contingencies

Consider alternatives for weather changes, expected participants not showing up, too quick or too slow resolution of the search and rescue components and other contingencies.

Plan for unexpected contingencies that may affect the usefulness of the training exercise.

  • Too many or not enough of the major participants.
  • Unexpectedly unavailable volunteer mock victims.
  • Unexpectedly unavailable search area.
  • Weather. Most unexpected weather will enhance the training exercise. Some weather may make the training exercise useless.
  • Too quick or too slow resolution to the search and rescue components.

If the number of searchers is more or less than what was anticipated, reduce or expand the search as may be necessary. This can be done by creating search boundaries or making an assumption that certain areas are being searched by other groups.

[edit] Safety

Determine safety concerns. The search managers will do this as well, but if they miss some aspects, those concerns will have to be pointed out to them to maintain a safe training exercise.

Consider what hazards may be present. Besides examining the area, ask the landowner(s) about any hazards on or near the site.

Always bare safety in mind. Someone should be ready to inform the search manager of safety concerns that have been overlooked.

At the conclusion of the search, make sure that every searcher is accounted for.

[edit] Lessons learned

Plan how to determine whether this was a successful training exercise.

How to find out what to do to make a better training exercise next time.

Make sure there is time and space for a debriefing and critique.

[edit] Assigned roles

Consider whether you need to appoint a search manager in advance of the search.

[edit] Social component

Consider whether there will be a social function (pot luck/BBQ) at the conclusion of the search.

Plan the social component.

Perhaps a pot-luck afterwards. Family and friends.

[edit] After search

  • Pick up any clues or props that were missed.
  • Make sure that all equipment is clean and put away properly.
  • Thank landowners and people who contributed to the search.
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