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Under Oregon law, the sheriff of each Oregon county has a mandate to provide some aspect of
Search and Rescue (SAR) activities within their county. Each sheriff decides what level that response might be; smaller counties may have less potential for calls and thereby fewer resources, while larger, more active counties generally have more missions and resources to respond accordingly.
DCSOSAR is headed by a Lieutenant and is comprised of the full-time paid staff assigned to the Special Services Unit, seasonal personnel in the Marine and OHV units, and 120+ dedicated volunteers who answer the call any time of day or night. Without the selfless service of those volunteers, many who recreate and become lost or hurt in the outdoors locally might find themselves in further peril.
Our mission is to provide professional, high-quality search and rescue assistance to citizens of Deschutes County, visitors who recreate locally, and mutual aid to other counties as requested. The ability to save a life or effect a successful rescue is often dependant upon how quickly the person can be found or reached.
The unit consists of general volunteers and a number of specialty teams, including swiftwater rescue, mountain rescue, winter search, medical evacuation, water operations and canine search. Additional teams include Incident Management, Air Operations, tracking and an internal horse team, separate from Posse assets. All members are trained in Wilderness First Responder as a minimum; other volunteers are EMT-certified, including Paramedic. Those medical team members operate under the direction of a Physician Advisor from St. Charles Medical Center-Bend.
These volunteers come from all walks of life, including retired teachers, physicians, corporate executives, engineers, chemists, bankers and business owners. When a call comes in, these volunteers often respond from work to deploy to the field. The volunteers have their own non-profit corporation, SAR Foundation, dedicated to raising funds for equipment and the overall needs of the volunteer unit. Support for the volunteers comes from the Sheriff in the form of logistical support, facilities, vehicles, and an annual budget for training and equipment.
2015 was a busy year for the unit. During the year, DCSOSAR drew 247 mission numbers; our average over the past three years has been 233 missions annually. Those 2015 overall missions consisted of:
Across those various missions, and in support of DCSOSAR activities, the volunteer members donated 23,010 hours in 2015. The national per hour rate for volunteers in 2014 (the last year available) was $21.99, meaning those dedicated volunteers donated a return of time and talent of $505,989.90 to the local community!