Special Operations Rescue Team train for upcoming recreating season

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - The Magic Valley Paramedics Special Operations Rescue Team trained at Rock Creek Canyon Tuesday as a refresher.

Josh Russell, an advanced emergency medical technician with Magic Valley Paramedics, said they do this training annually.

"Spring's here and so it's time for rescues again. We're just going through everything and knocking the cobwebs off and practicing," Russell said.

Chad Smith, the SORT director, said they train often.

"We do anywhere from 20 to 50 technical rope rescues a year, so we're constantly training," he said. "We train twice a month, a minimum of 40 hours a year. We do two classes a year. An ops class and a tech class."

Smith said the team sets up what they call "rapid access."

"So we can get a paramedic down to the patient within five minutes of arriving on scene," he said.

Russell said it takes them about 10 to 15 minutes to set up all their ropes and tripod, where they pull the ropes down rather than over the top of the canyon.

"Basically it's a high direction offset, so we can basically get over the edge and we're actually going from the top of the tripod instead of the top of the canyon," Smith said.

If a person needed to be rescued, the team puts them in a stokes basket.

"When we're strapping somebody in the basket, safety is the main concern. They have to be secured," Smith said.

He explained that they secure the patient to the basket in four different ways.

"If any of those one through four ways fails, there's another way to catch them so it's really safe," he said.

Paramedic Barrett Craig had to rescue one of his own for training purposes Tuesday.

"On this particular evolution, I was the rescuer," he said. "I went down with the stokes basket, got the patient in the basket while they transitioned to a haul team. I just try to keep the basket off the wall as best as I can when they're pulling me up."

Craig said all he thinks about when he's saving someone is making sure all the safety things are done.

"You're just thinking about making sure you covered all your Ps and Qs. You've dotted all your Is, crossed your Ts," he said.

Russell says his position is the edge. He looks over the edge and says he is the eyes and ears for the rescuers and the team at the top.

"I communicate between the rescuer and the guys on top on when we need to stop, when we need to go, if we need to go faster or slower if anything happens," he said.

Smith told a KMVT reporter there are two different ways a patient can be pulled up from the canyon. They can come up vertically or horizontally, if the patient is injured.

Russell said the rope can pull up to 8,000 pounds, and they have a handful of different ropes they use. Some go up to more than 600 feet long.

"We've pulled 300 pounders up with two rescuers on the edge, or two rescuers tied to it," he said.

Smith said they have a total of 16 members that are either paramedics or EMT that are rained to the technician level for rope rescue.

"We staff the rescue everyday with two people on call so that the response is immediate and then everyone else comes from off duty," Smith said.

The team also works with Twin Falls Fire, Twin Falls County and Jerome County Search and Rescue among others.

Smith said they work with Air St. Luke's as well because SORT is a regional response team.

"We'll fly to an area in a helicopter if they don't have a rope rescue team if needed," he said.

Craig has been with Magic Valley Paramedics for three years now and he said he loves being part of the team.

"Great bunch of guys that more or less volunteer to hang off the side of rocks," he said. "Everyone here loves doing this which is why they're here."

So far in 2018, the team has done one rescue. Craig said they did nine rescues in 2017.

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