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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

BLM to the Rescue

You know the BLM protects your public lands.
Now see how it saves people on them!

story & photos by Michael Mascari


COUGAR ATTACK...OR A ZOMBIE?

At two o'clock, Albert Rule and Jennifer Moore missed their check-ins.

Warning raised, BLM dispatchers in the Eugene District's Siuslaw Resource Area moved quickly to find the whereabouts of the two BLM foresters. The clock ticking, workers scrambled to find Rule and Moore. Within 20 minutes of searching, personnel in the field found Rule wounded on the ground with a massive head wound. And as crews dispatched rescue equipment, they made another shocking discovery: Moore rested against a nearby tree, bleeding in agony from a savage cougar attack.

Civil Engineer Luis Palacios was one of the first emergency rescuers on the scene. "It was a really amazing experience. At the beginning, I almost forgot this was an exercise," Palacios said. "They did a really great job of making the injuries look real, and the casualties did a great job (simulating) being injured."

Wait.

Simulating an injury? An exercise?

THIS IS A TEST. THIS IS ONLY A TEST.

This scenario was part of a casualty response exercise conducted by the BLM's Eugene District. Employees like Palacios were trained to react quickly in an emergency situation while remaining cool under the pressure.

BLM to the Rescue
photo by Michael Mascari

"Minutes seem like an eternity in a rescue situation," Palacios said. "It's actually a lot more difficult than you would think when you take into account the different levels of where everyone is at in their training. Responders must evaluate the situation, evaluate the casualty, and figure out how best to extract them. Training and practice teaches people how to respond when the circumstances can be overwhelming."

Every second is precious in a lifeline situation. Responders must work without hesitation to find and rescue a casualty. Sometimes though, it's slow and steady that wins the race.

"I've had a little experience with basic first aid," Palacios continued, "But I never had training with a backboard, stabilizing the casualty, securing their neck. It's amazing how hard it is to get someone on a stretcher without moving them around too much."

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

The Eugene District's Siuslaw Resource Area conducted their training by creating a realistic scenario. From posing a convincing challenge BLM employees may truly face to the Hollywood-like special effects, this rescue was taken seriously because it felt absolutely genuine.

To assist the training of BLM district employees, Chris Ordonez, a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy assigned to the local Marine Corps Reserves unit, provided his experience and expertise.

BLM to the Rescue
photo by Michael Mascari

Ordonez said the training was some of the best he'd seen. "When a real world situation goes down, they'll be a lot more comfortable with the equipment. Getting their hands on it, getting familiarized with it, and gaining that experience in the field will prepare (BLM employees) much more to react than classroom training could."

The BLM's Dan Howells, a ski patrol volunteer during the winter, worked with Ordonez to oversee BLM employees as they moved through the exercise. And Cindi Phillips - an Emergency Medical Technician in addition to her role as a Resource Support Technician with the BLM - supervised first aid and evacuation.

FUTURE FORWARD

The ultimate goal of carrying out this rescue is to continue regular training for all local staff - especially those who may be inexperienced and new to the BLM - to ensure everyone can save people in peril from field or forest.

"We have a lot of folks in this (district) approaching retirement age," Siuslaw Resource Area Manager Bill Hatton said. "It's important to transfer these skills to the next generation."

So no matter the threat or situation, this BLM will be prepared to react swiftly to any future rescue emergency.

Be they cougars...or zombies.