On a cold snowy night in December 1972, a group of forty-five Summit County residents met at Swan's Nest on Tiger Road, the historic home of Ben Stanley Revett, the "Gold Dredge King," to talk about the need for a local search and rescue organization. In July of the following year, the Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG) was incorporated as the sixth mountain rescue team in Colorado.
SCRG is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization incorporated under section 501(c)3 of the IRS code. We operate under the statutory authority of the Summit County Sheriff's Office, and our mission is to fulfill the Sheriff's responsibility to provide backcountry search and rescue services to the county.
Like any organization, we've grown tremendously over the years. We've added more members, more equipment, and more policy and procedure. We've developed new technical specialties, and become more sophisticated in our internal and external communication and educational programs. Our core mission has never changed, however: our team exists to save lives. And our top priority in the operation of our group has always been the safety of our team members.
Today we have about 65 active members, nine of whom are mission coordinators. The mission coordinators rotate in an on-call role and act as the initial point of contact to assess a 911 call for backcountry assistance. Each active member carries a pager which can be toned by the county's 911 dispatchers when a mission coordinator determines that an "all-call" is needed. SCRG receives 100 to 200 requests for help each year, and these requests usually translate into 50 to 80 "all-call" missions.
SCRG's missions are pretty evenly spread over the entire year. In the summer we go out for lost or injured mountain bikers, climbers, hikers, ATV and horseback riders; in the fall, lost or injured hunters; in the winter, backcountry skiers and snowboarders, crosscountry snowshoers and skiers, ice climbers, snowmobilers and avalanche reports; and in the spring, swiftwater accidents. The group also responds to the occasional downed hot-air balloon, crashed hang glider, airplane or helicopter accident, rolled four-wheel-drive vehicle and over-the-edge highway motor vehicle accident. An average mission runs for a few hours, but missions can extend overnight or even into multiple days for extractions in challenging terrain or missing parties that take time to locate.
SCRG is headquartered in Frisco, Colorado. We have an equipment barn and a meeting/training facility in the county's maintenance yard area near the Emergency Services Building and Fire Training Center. The team has five emergency response vehicles, plus a number of ATV's and snowmobiles, two tow-behind evacuation wagons (one for summer and one for winter), and a snowcat.
SCRG members have varying levels of medical training. At minimum, every responder is required to have current CPR and First Aid certifications. A large portion of the team is EMT certified, and the wilderness paramedics of the Summit County Ambulance Service are part of our team.
Weather permitting, Flight For Life medical evacuation helicopters, one of which is permanently stationed at the level 3 trauma hospital in Frisco, are available to us for backcountry extractions of critical patients. Flight For Life also assists SCRG in aerial searches or with rescuer transport in time critical situations, and plays an essential role in transporting avalanche rapid deployment teams including dogs, dog handlers and snow technicians to backcountry avalanches.
The National Guard's High Altitude Aviation Training Center (HAATS) in Eagle, Colorado also supplies helicopter support upon request to help us with air search operations and backcountry insertions and extractions.
The Summit County Rescue Group is a member of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) and the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR). The team must recertify every five years with the MRA to retain active status, which involves a series of tests in five separate search and rescue disciplines over a two-day period. In addition to responding in Summit County, SCRG is available for assistance on major wilderness search and rescue missions anywhere in the country, through a mutual aid agreement with the Colorado Search and Rescue Board (CSRB). SCRG is also automatically activated by the county's incident command group on any third alarm emergency or mass casualty incident in the county.
The Summit County Rescue Group is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at no charge to its rescue subjects.