So far this winter, Washoe County Search and Rescue teams have been called out on six search and rescues in the Tahoe area.
They put in endless amounts of training, so that when emergency situations come up in the future, they're ready for anything.
"We have a lot of back country skiing," says Eric Easley, a search and rescue training coordinator. "A lot of people ski out of bounds, we have a lot of severe avalanche danger around this area."
The scene was set for Saturday's training exercise in Sheeps Flat off of Mount Rose Highway where five missing people are all trapped under five feet of snow after an avalanche.
"Four of the victims had transceivers, locator beacons on them," says Easley. "We found them fairly quickly."
Instead of using real people, crews buried backpacks in their place. And, finding that final backpack without a beacon was tricky.
That's when the 10-to-12 foot long poles called probes come into play. Crews stick the poles in the snow to look for missing people who could be buried. They can mean the difference between life and death.
"You have a very slim survival time once you actually are buried," says Easley. "So, locating them as quickly as possible is key."
After about an hour, the search is over. But, the real ones don't always end so quickly.
Depending on how big the avalanche is and how deep the snow can get, some of the search and rescues can last hours and even days.
To get ready for those extended searches, volunteers train hard.
"You never get totally comfortable with it," says volunteer Jody Wilkins. "There's always the unknown when it comes to the weather and avalanches."
For the rookies, this is a chance to build confidence.
"You come out here, you don't know what you're doing, you're kind of lost, and you just follow," says David Gabany. "The team is always working with people watching out for the new people."
The teams know this field training is vital because when a real rescue is needed, there's no room for error.
"The more training you can get on actually being hands on and getting a feel for it, is a lot better than anything you're going to get in the classroom," says Easley.
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:16 AM EDT2013-05-25 06:16:04 GMT
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