STATEWIDE – Search and rescue teams across the state are experts when it comes to navigating the wilderness, especially when a life is at stake.
But even these crews face challenges during the winter and need to prepare for the cold.
“Always prepare for the worst,” said Kris MacCabe, a district game warden.
Search and rescue teams take extra precautions during the winter months.
“If you send searchers out and they’re not prepared, you’re going to have more casualties than you went out there to find,” said Dan Warner, a member of D.E.E.M.I.’s search and rescue team.
D.E.E.M.I. crews fill their Humvees with extra cold weather gear for victims and themselves.
“We throw in some sleeping bags for our searchers, so at least our searchers are always taken care of no matter what if we’re stuck somewhere or break down,” Warner said.
They also change their search tactics.
“We’ll throw in the infrared which is the night vision camera, because a lot of times you can’t pick up heat signal in the snow, especially if they’re hypothermic or their body temperature is too cold,” Warner said.
Maine state wardens need to adjust their approach as well.
“In the winter time it’s difficult for us to use our canines, it’s difficult for our dogs to get in there,” said MacCabe. “We’ve had lost skiers in the past off the back side of ski slopes and we can’t get our dogs in there.”
To help them combat the elements, search and rescue teams ask that you be prepared when doing an outdoor activity.
“The biggest thing for us, this time of year, people can go out and make a plan and stick to that plan, leave a message at home saying where they’re gonna go,” said MacCabe. “That gives us a head start in getting to a point where we know where you were last.”
Pack extra clothes, socks, and warm gear wherever you go.
“Even going out for a day trip in your vehicle, it’s important to have that stuff,” MacCabe said.
“Throw in a bunch of extra wool blankets, never have enough of those,” Warner said.
They say these simple steps can help prevent tragedy.
“We want people to go out enjoy the outdoors, we want them to ice fish and go snowmobiling, but we want them to be safe,” said MacCabe. “That is our whole mission, to have them enjoy it and be safe at the same time.”