“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Yes, I’d like to report a missing person. He went hiking yesterday along the Appalachian Trail by our house and was due home for dinner. It’s midnight now and he hasn’t returned any of my calls or texts. His car is right here. Something is wrong. Help me!”

The help may come from the local sheriff. It may come from the park ranger or it may, if the need is great enough, come from a group of highly specialized and collaborative first responders who know a thing or two about getting to where you are and getting you out safely. They are the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group, and they specialize in helping you get home to tell your bad-day story.

Danger On The Mountain

AMRG, rescue, survival, survivor's edge

“The AMRG said volunteer search-and-rescue specialists have been responding to calls from responsible authorities (RAs) since 1985. “

The Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group (AMRG) is an all-volunteer, nonprofit search-and-rescue team based in Pittsburgh that has offered support to government agencies responsible for lost- and injured-person incidents for 25 years.

More specifically, they help “locate, access, stabilize and transport patients in wilderness and suburban settings,” even if it’s a known criminal or there’s evidence that needs to be recovered.

According to the AMRG, its primary response area is southwestern Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas in West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland. The AMRG is a member of the Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council, the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference, and is the only team in the state of Pennsylvania that is accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association.

These folks don’t use a secret Batman spotlight in the sky to know when anyone else needs help. They use a phone when they’re called by a local agency—in fact, it’s the only way they show up—and once that’s done, they jump right into the rescue mission as a team member to help at no charge to the coordinating agency.

The AMRG said volunteer search-and-rescue specialists have been responding to calls from responsible authorities (RAs) since 1985. According to the AMRG, their list of references include the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and police and fire departments throughout Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Armstrong, Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette counties and the surrounding areas. “We only respond to requests from RAs—not from search subjects’ families, the media, etc., and we are happy to respond along with or under the direction of local authorities and other search-and-rescue teams,” the AMRG said. “All services are provided at no cost, and the AMRG is fully insured.

“Early in a search, we can respond with a quick-response team consisting of highly trained field teams and, when requested, search management personnel,” said the AMRG. “In the case of a growing, already initiated search, we can offer an escalated response, thanks in part through our affiliations with the Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council, the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference, and the Mountain Rescue Association. In all cases, we respond with the resources and at the level that you request.”

How skilled are the folks coming to save you? Just to qualify as a field team member, who is the least qualified person on any field-response team, AMRG personnel must endure a rigorous qualification process. The AMRG defines a field team member as a qualified person who meets the minimum requirements necessary to perform as part of an organized search team for a missing person, the ground portion of a missing aircraft search, and non-technical and semi-technical rescues.

Surviving The Trail

alleghany, survival, search, rescue

“How skilled are the folks coming to save you? Just to qualify as a field team member, who is the least qualified person on any field-response team, AMRG personnel must endure a rigorous qualification process.”

AMRG member and emergency medicine expert Dr. Keith Conover is well aware of all of the technology available to today’s outdoor enthusiasts, but when he was asked what technology was best to make sure you stay safe, he said that a paper and pencil and telephone were the most effective tools. “Leave a note on your dashboard as to where you’re going and when you expect to be back,” said Dr. Conover. “Before leaving, call someone with the same information.”

Dr. Conover, a veteran of too many rescues, said some of the myths he hears and wants to dispel include if you have a GPS you won’t get lost, or if you get stuck out after dark you can call on your cell phone and get a helicopter to come get you.

“No, being out after dark and being cold for a night is educational. We can walk in and get you in the morning (or the middle of the night, if appropriate) without the danger of a helicopter,” Dr. Conover said.

“Shelter in the cold is a big deal in the Appalachians, as three seasons of the year they can be cold and wet, even in the South,” Dr. Conover said. “Wet destroys the insulating value of clothing, especially cotton. Wet cotton is slightly worse than being naked, as long as it’s not windy.”

For more information about the AMRG, visit http://www.amrg.info or call 888-333-4282.

 

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE TM Fall 2014 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.