During this time of social distancing, it is natural to think of heading outdoors for some healthy isolation. However, we want everyone to understand the impact the current situation has on our ability to carry out search and rescue operations.
Our ability to mount an effective SAR response has already been impacted in a number of ways. We have members in higher-risk demographics who can only contribute from their homes. Some of our members volunteer in the EMS division or work in healthcare-related jobs, which may take priority over SAR operations at this time. Our field team members will need to minimize interactions at the fire hall, and minimize interactions with each other and the public throughout a response. Because of this, we will be slower to reach lost or injured individuals. Our direct contact with lost or injured people will also put us all at risk of transmitting the virus, regardless of whether anyone is showing symptoms.
Please keep this in mind when planning your outdoor activities until the critical period of this public health crisis has passed. Please consider lower-risk activities so your chances of injury are minimized, and please consider sticking to areas you know well so your chances of becoming lost are kept to a minimum as well. Similar messages are being shared by search and rescue organizations around the US.
If you are heading out, please leave a clear trip plan with someone in town. If you have any questions regarding this announcement, please contact the Sitka Fire Department at 747-3233.