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Article Title

CALIFORNIA OREGON SEARCH AND RESCUE PHYSICAL FITNESS STANDARDS

Abstract

California Oregon Search and Rescue crews are partly composed of volunteers who are trained through the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA). To obtain the Oregon State Search and Rescue basic certification, volunteers must pass a set of core competencies, which are meant to assess whether volunteers are physically and mentally capable of performing assigned tasks. While there are standardized tests for land navigation, radio communications, etc., physical fitness standards remain more subjective, and “specific and appropriate tests [are] to be determined by each Sheriff, or designee”. Often, a “moderate” or “arduous” pack test, or Work Capacity Test is borrowed from the Wildland Firefighters assessment used by the U.S. Forestry Service. PURPOSE: To gather preliminary data about the physical demands of search and rescue missions in order to inform a reasonable standardized physical fitness field test for volunteers in training. METHODS: Google Earth was used to analyze GPS data from eight different OSSA missions. We collected the duration, distance, speed, elevation, and slope of up to seven tracks from each mission. RESULTS: The average duration of active searches was 2:33 hours, with an average distance covered of 4.17 km, at an average pace of 1.59 km/hr, with an average total change in elevation of 391 m, and an average slope of 9.7%. While average data is useful, we will consider the upper ranges when creating a standardized fitness test, and standard deviation and p-values are not relevant due to the highly variable nature of the data. CONCLUSION: Search and Rescue missions involve a wide range of physical requirements, and physical ability must be tested in order to classify volunteers for deployment in certain environment types. This preliminary data will serve as a foundational step in creating standardized, reasonable, and specific fitness standards so as to avoid Search and Rescue volunteers overexerting or injuring themselves in the field.

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