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Search & Rescue team sharpens its skills

• Practice scenario simulates a fallen hiker.

Posted: April 28, 2008 2:26 a.m.
Updated: June 29, 2008 5:04 a.m.

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With springtime in the Santa Clarita Valley in full swing, many residents take it upon themselves to enjoy a beautiful warm morning at one of the areas many canyons, trails, paths and nature walks. However, enjoying a nature walk is not risk-free. The threat of injury or entrapment along any of these trails or canyons can be life-threatening, and it is incumbent upon the county Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team to seek out individuals in distress and assist them to safety.

On Sunday, six deputies of the SCV Search and Rescue Team simulated a rescue at Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon in Newhall. The team lieutenant, Tony Battitta, was given coordinates of a "victim" via a hand-held Global Positioning System unit. Battitta then led his crew, all wearing emergency rescue equipment and a backpack weighing  approximately 35 pounds, on a one-and-a-half mile walk through the trails of Towsley Canyon until they reached the location the GPS indicated.

"We train once a month on different scenarios," Battitta said. "Today was a stream crossing that included  mountaineering with GPS and navigation. Today was good. No one got hurt."

Upon reaching the destination, the rescue team briefly searched the area to locate a dummy representing the victim.

The dummy was found approximately 150 feet below the trail. The situation was a simulation of a hiker falling off the trail and landing on a riverbed below.

Once the location of the body was determined, two members tied a utility rope to the base of a tree, which allowed four of the team members to repel down the incline and attend to the injured body.

The mountain rescue professionals discovered that the hypothetical victim was dead, and the assignment was modified to returning the body of the deceased victim.

After securing the dummy in a gurney, the team members carried the body toward the end of the riverbed, where they simulated transporting the body over an active stream to a transport vehicle.

Once the body was secure at the transport, the training was complete. Sunday's simulation provided valuable hands-on training for all of the deputies involved.

"We let those who have not done this before do a lot," Battitta said. "They are put in charge of a lot of stuff."

For more information about the SCV Search and Rescue Team, visit www.LASD.org.

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