CAP Search, Rescue Efforts Again Eclipse 100 Saves for Fiscal Year
Civil Air Patrol has passed the century mark in lives saved for the third straight fiscal year, as credited by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC).
The 117th and final save ooccurred Sept. 30, the fiscal year's last day, when CAP’s National Cell Phone Forensics Team provided the Colorado Search and Rescue Board coordinator with a high-priority area to focus search efforts for a lost hiker. A local search team found the hiker alive near a national park trailhead.
“Nice way to finish out the fiscal year,” said John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations, who said the save was typical of most of those credited to CAP in recent years. This year 90 percent – 105 of the 117 lives saved in fiscal 2019 – occurred with the support of the cell phone team.
The organization totaled 158 saves in fiscal 2018, a new record for lives saved in a fiscal year. In 2017, CAP was credited with 110 saves by the AFRCC.
“This is exciting news,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP national commander and CEO. “To me, this means there are at least 385 people alive and well today, thanks in part to our volunteers’ recent search and rescue efforts.”
The third year in a row with more than 100 saves reflects CAP’s continuous advances in technology and training in one of the Air Force auxiliary’s primary missions — emergency services.
CAP’s total team effort for search and rescue, which also includes the National Radar Analysis Team and state- and locally based ground teams, totaled 869 missions for fiscal 2019. The cell phone team participated in 334 of those missions, compared with 75 for the radar team.
Last year the total number of missions stood at 1,044. The mission count for fiscal 2017 was 798.
“Technology has been a game-changer for search and rescue operations that CAP supports,” Desmarais said. “Search missions that used to require vast resources and could last days or even weeks before we had these tools are now resolved with much smaller teams without ever having to even turn props on our search aircraft in many cases.
“Most of the time we are finding those who are lost over the course of a few hours or less. Rarely do we see search missions last more than a day or two anymore.”
Cell phone data is often the first tool used in a search, as most people, including pilots, go nowhere these days without a phone. Cellular data can eliminate search areas and curtail the search time.
Lost hikers, snowmobilers, skiers and boaters have been found with the help of cell phone data.