WFR 2019

July, 2019 – Members of RAT-SAR participated in a 5-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification course hosted by Randall’s Adventure & Training. Scenarios included everything from a mass casualty plane crash incident to common fractures often seen on hikers and backpackers.

Wilderness First Responders are individuals who are trained to respond to emergency situations in remote locations. They are part of a wide variety of wilderness medical providers who deal with medical emergencies that occur in wilderness settings.

Cave Rescue Exercise

The RAT-SAR team spent the weekend with teams from North Carolina for their third annual cave rescue exercise. The event has grown since its inception three years ago with more rescuers and teams participating. This year’s even featured a multi-drop vertical that required the rescuers to navigate some horizontal passage, as well as raising the patient through three vertical drops. The rescue required improvising anchor systems, building friction reducing high directionals, and using techniques we teach in our Limited Resources Rescue class. The exercise lasted 10 hours not counting the previous day that was spent in the campground going over improvised climbing techniques and building mechanical advantage systems, as well as performing tests on those systems with load cells. Once again, we can’t say enough good things about the North Carolina SAR and MSAR teams for their expertise, knowledge and thinking out of the box.

SPAR / SRT Class

Great weekend working with folks from the North Carolina teams at the Southwestern College SPAR/SRT class. Two days with a lot of different techniques including traveling hauls, pickoffs using victim’s rope, high directionals, guided rappels, bottom up rescues, improvised anchors, rebelays, SRT climbing, take-down raps, breaking into mainlines, lightweight single rope systems, contingency lowers, buddy rappels, and a whole lot more. As always when it comes to working in North Carolina, we couldn’t ask for a better group of technicians to work with. Much thanks to David Walker, Kevin Reeves and Jason Lovvorn for all their help with instructing. Keep an eye on the Southwestern College site since we will be running this one again in the near future. Oh, and it didn’t pour down rain – that’s a first for us!!

Advanced Rescue

Members of the RAT-SAR team assisted with teaching the Advanced Wilderness Rescue class in Pisgah National Forest this past week.  Wilderness Week is a week-long training event for North Carolina Search and Rescue personnel with several classes going on at the same time.  We worked on tree rescues, single rope rescues, twin tensioning systems, traveling hauls, high-lines, and ended the class with a simulated waterfall / canyon rescue down Flat Laurel Creek.  It wouldn’t be Wilderness Week without a ton of rain and this year was no exception.  We always love getting to train with the MSAR group.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more skillful, professional rescue team anywhere.


The clouds finally parted in Alabama and we had excellent weather and a full house for this weekend’s ISAR (Intro to Search and Rescue) class at Randall’s Adventure & Training. This course is designed to provide knowledge concerning the general responsibilities, skills, abilities, and the equipment needed by persons who would be participating in a search or rescue mission. ISAR serves as a starting point and provides continuity during SAR operations and future training of all team members.ISAR is also designed to prepare the student for the NASAR SARTECH III certification.

Earl Tilton, Owner of Lodestar Professional Services and NASAR Board member, served as our lead instructor for this course and our students varied in experience and backgrounds, all shared an interest in Search and Research and the newly formed RAT-SAR team.

If you have an interest in Search and Rescue, or are already a member of a SAR team and need training please take a look at our other SAR-Related class offerings at

Initial Actions

On February 8th, Earl Tilton with Lodestar Professional Services taught an 8-hour NASAR class titled “Search and Rescue Initial Actions” for the RAT-SAR crew.  The class is designed for first responders who may be the first on the scene when a dementia patient, lost child etc. has wandered off.

The first few hours of any lost person incident are very critical.  Very important decisions can be made that will greatly increase the probability of a happy outcome. We covered many topics from getting the initial report, developing the subject’s profile, and determining search urgency, all the way to performing an after-action analysis and preparing for the next mission.

Hugh Coffee used to say “The way you lay the hose determines how you will fight the fire.”  The same applies to Search and Rescue.  Gathering information and determining the best course of action early on is critical. In my 19 years of law enforcement, I don’t recall ever receiving any training of this type.  The class teaches you how to go about putting a plan together quickly to start checking areas of highest probability and having additional resources enroute, instead of just taking the initial report and waiting around for the Incident Command system to all be put in place.

The first half of the class consisted of lecture/discussion and the second half was table top scenarios.  This is where we were given maps and took on the role of responding to a missing person call.  We were given some information, and some was intentionally left vague.  With that we had to come up with a plan that was discussed in class once the 30-minute time limit was up.

One key resource we were allowed to use is Bob Koester’s book Lost Person Behavior. If you aren’t familiar with this book, Bob is one of the biggest names in the Search and Rescue community and has taken countless case studies and compiled all the information into categories such as different age groups, different outdoor hobbies, dementia and special needs persons, hikers, hunters and so on.  The book breaks everything down into what action the person will most likely take such as going downhill, going to water, going to a scenic spot.  It is all presented in percentages and allows you to look at a map and determine which areas the person is most likely to be found.  There is also an app, which makes everything a lot easier and quicker.

I can’t recommend the training enough for public safety, Search and Rescue groups, or anyone with an interest in helping out their fellow man.  If you have any questions contact me at, or Earl Tilton at

Cave Rescue Training with North Carolina SAR

We would like to thank our extended SAR team family from North Carolina for spending a few days with us training on a fairly difficult cave rescue scenario, as well as some simpler rescues. Can’t say enough good things about the SAR team members from Western NC. No matter the situation, when to comes to technical rescue it will get done if NC SAR has anything to do with it.

NC Wilderness Week Advanced Training

Some of our RAT-SAR members spent 6 days helping teach Advanced Rescue for North Carolina’s Haywood Community College’s Wilderness Week program. It rained 4 out of the 6 days we were out but it was an honor and privilege to work with this group of true SAR professionals in Western North Carolina.