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The original item was published from 10/5/2023 1:27:57 PM to 10/20/2023 12:00:01 AM.

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Sheriff's Office

Posted on: October 5, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Spokane Regional Air Support Unit Integrates New Technology to Assist in Locating Avalanche Victims

SRASU Top 1-2023

Spokane Regional Air Support Unit Integrates New Technology to Assist in Locating Avalanche Victims or Injured/Lost Persons in Remote Areas  


Spokane Regional Air Support Unit (SRASU) is now equipped with new technology to help quickly locate people who are lost, injured, or victims of an avalanche or similar emergency situation. SRASU recently received a Recco helicopter detector and was trained in its use.  Recco provided the transmitter at no cost to help in this critical mission.  

Over the past few months, SRASU personnel, specifically Rescue 3 Flight Crews, have been training on deploying and using the Recco detector.  Now, we want to inform you, the skiers, snowmobilers, ski resorts, or anyone who recreates in the beautiful backcountry areas of our county and region of this newly available search tool and how it could help rescuers quickly locate you in the event of an emergency.  


The way Recco technology helps Rescue 3 Crews or other Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel find you is simple and very effective.  It makes you searchable by Rescue 3/SAR, allowing them to find and help you faster when lost outdoors or in an avalanche or similar emergency.   


When deployed during an emergency or SAR operation in the backcountry, Rescue 3 can deploy the Recco detector, which sends a directional radar signal that is reflected back to the Rescue 3 Flight Crew by a Recco rescue reflector embedded/attached to the lost or injured person’s clothing/gear.  This detected signal will lead Rescue 3 to your location.  Recco reflectors are not powered, affordable, and very effective should you need help in an emergency.


A Recco equipped SAR helicopter, such as Rescue 3, can search large areas quickly.  During a search, Rescue 3, flying from a height of approximately 100 meters (328 feet), can cover a search area of approximately 100 meters wide, meaning the SAR detector enables rescuers to search 1 km² within 6 minutes, approximately 30 football fields per minute.    


However, for this technology to help Rescue 3/SAR teams find you quickly in an emergency, you must have a Recco reflector.  You can find Recco reflectors/gear/clothing online starting in the mid $30 range or purchase Recco equipped gear, such as backpacks, boots, helmets, jackets, and pants from several outdoor clothing/gear supplies.  


Spokane County’s Spokane Regional Air Support Unit is the 8th deployment of the Recco helicopter detector in the United States.  SRASU will fill the gap between Snohomish County in Washington and Flathead County in Montana, which also have the capability to deploy a Recco helicopter detector.       


As always, if you’re heading out for an adventure in the backcountry, be prepared and plan for the unexpected, even if your outing is only for a few hours.  Bring more than enough food and water and be dressed appropriately, including extra items to be prepared for any type of weather.  


Bring needed equipment, such as a working and charged GPS, a compass, matches, and a flashlight, and we also suggest a Recco reflector.  Do NOT rely on your cell phone as they may not work due to a lack of signal.   Sharing your plan with a family member or friend is also very important.  Let them know when you’re leaving, the exact route or trail you plan to take, how many people are with you (don’t go alone), what vehicle you’re driving, where you will park, and when you expect to be back.  Also, inform them to report it immediately if you do not contact them by a designated time.  


We live and recreate in a beautiful area with several opportunities to hike, ski, snowmobile, bike, climb, and many other fun activities, but always remember to be prepared for anything, plan for the unexpected, and if an emergency occurs or you become lost, be searchable to rescuers.  


For additional information about Recco, visit their webpage (https://recco.com/) or their FAQ page (https://recco.com/faq/



About the Spokane Regional Air Support Unit


The Spokane Regional Air Support Unit is comprised of Volunteer Pilots, Tactical Flight Officers (TFOs) from local law enforcement agencies, and Helicopter Rescue Medics (HRMs), Certified Firefighter/Paramedics with Spokane Valley Fire Department.   


TFOs: Deputies and Officers from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Valley Police Department, Spokane Police Department, and the Liberty Lake Police Department.


Air 1 and Air 2: Two OH-58’s equipped with Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), which allows aircrews to detect heat on the ground.  FLIR can be used to locate both missing people and hiding fugitives.  

Air-1 and Air-2 are also equipped with a 30 million candle power searchlight, a GPS moving map system, and the flight crews are equipped with night vision goggles.  In addition, Air-1 is fitted with a downlink that transmits live video from the helicopter to the Mobile Command Vehicle.  The microwave downlink allows police and fire staff to see real-time video from the helicopter and make timely decisions based on what they see. 


Rescue 3: A Bell UH-1H Super Huey is equipped with a long line and hoist system for short-haul rescue missions.  The long line and hoist system allows our Helicopter Rescue Medics and Tactical Flight Officers to be lowered from Rescue 3 to retrieve a citizen that is either injured or lost in remote areas.  The primary mission for Rescue 3 is search and rescue.  



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