GPSAR Digital News for August / September / October 1998

Past issues on-line currently include...
June 1997 | July 1997 | August 1997 | September 1997 | October 1997 | November / December 1997 |
January / February 1998 | March / April 1998 | May / June / July 1998



GPSAR Called For Assistance To Search In Reading, Pennsylvania

GPSAR Assists Juvenile Diabetes Foundation

GPSAR Attends Weldon Fire Company Expo Event

GPSAR Attends Youth Community Day

GPSAR Attends Township/Police Community Day

GPSAR Attends Levittown Fire Company Expo Event

GPSAR New Members News

GPSAR Member News

Canine Care - Poisons

Equine Encephalitis Cases Found In New Jersey

Technical Rope Rescue Question

Alzheimer’s Disease Summary

Foot Care For Search And Rescue Personnel

Could You Survive In The Wilderness

Natural Energy Boosters

Man Survives Six Weeks At Sea

Boy Dies Due To Hospital Rules

Story Of The Month

Quote Of The Month


On September 19, 1998, Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was contacted by County Dispatch and notified that a search was taking place in Reading, Pennsylvania and that assistance from GPSAR was requested. The victim was found alive. Thanks go to the following GPSAR personnel for their assistance: Chief Labov, Assistant Chief Ludwig, Assistant Chief Wallace, Captain Hopkins, Lieutenant Hinkley, Lieutenant Mower, Sergeant Kratz and members Rogers and M. Tartaglia.


On September 27, 1998, Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was asked to participate in the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Walk-A-Thon fundraiser. GPSAR provided general assistance, our mountain bike team to escort the walkers, a SAR canine on standby and, Explorers from our newly formed Explorer Unit. Thanks go to the following GPSAR personnel for their assistance: Chief Labov, Assistant Chief Wallace, Captain Hopkins, and members Gopaul and Shecktor and, Explorer Captain David, Lieutenant Hawkins, Lieutenant Peterson and members Brown and Weir.



On October 8, 1998, Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was invited to participate in Weldon Fire Company’s Fire Prevention and Safety Expo. Our usual professional display was exhibited. Thanks go to the following GPSAR personnel for their assistance: Chief Labov, and members Corrigan, Filosa, Forman and Explorer Couchera.


On September 19, 1998 Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was invited to participate in the Youth Community Day near Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Our usual professional display was exhibited. Thanks go to the following GPSAR personnel for their assistance: Chief Labov, Lieutenant Mower and members Corrigan, A. Tartaglia, M. Tartaglia and Explorers Miller and T. Robertson.


On September 19, 1998 Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was invited to participate in the Warwick Township Community Day. Our usual professional display was exhibited which also included our Mounted Unit, Canine Unit and Mountain Bike Team. Thanks go to the following GPSAR personnel for their assistance: Chief Labov, Assistant Chief Wallace, Captain Hopkins, Sergeant Kratz and members Crouthamel, Sonntag and Explorers Captain David and Lieutenant Hawkins.


On October 11, 1998, Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was invited to participate in Levittown Fire Company’s Fire Prevention and Safety Expo. Our usual professional display was exhibited. Thanks go to the following GPSAR personnel for their assistance: Assistant Chief Wallace, Sergeant Marshman and members Corrigan, and Gopaul and Explorer Captain David.


Welcome to new probationary members: Jack Corrigan from New Berlinville, Pennsylvania, Brian Forman from Wyncote, Pennsylvania, Gregory Filosa from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Albert Chernoff from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Jody Belimow from Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.


Congratulations to Crawford Mechem, MD and his partner "Scout" for certifying with the Canine Unit in Level 1 Basic Canine Search and Rescue Operations.

Congratulations to Thomas Mower on his promotion to the rank of Second Lieutenant. Lieutenant Mower will oversee the Explorer Unit and will assist in supervising in the Canine Unit.

Congratulations to Donna Ferron on her promotion to the rank of Second Lieutenant. Lieutenant Ferron will oversee the Water Rescue and Recovery Team, the Strategic Planning Committee and the Fundraising Committee.

Congratulations to the following GPSAR personnel for successfully completing the Leadership and Influence Training Program: Chief Labov, Captain Zollers, Lieutenant Hinkley, Lieutenant Mower, Sergeant Marshman and members Gingras, Gray, MacIver, J. Smith, and Waldman.

Congratulations to the following GPSAR personnel for successfully completing the Disaster Management Training Program: Chief Labov, Lieutenant Mower and member D. Park.

Congratulations to Timothy C. Wallace on his acceptance and inclusion into "Who’s Who Among American High School Students, 1997/1998." Tim has been a member of GPSAR for over two years and is currently the youngest member to be certified as an "MSO." His dedication to search and rescue was instrumental in his achieving this award!


Congratulations to the following new members for successfully completing the Basic Search and Rescue Training Program: Thomas Baildon, Jack Corrigan, Gregory Filosa, Susan Rogers, Brian Forman, Explorer Keith David, Explorer Amy McGarvey, Explorer Matt Hawkins, Explorer Andrew Hoffmaster, Explorer Shawn Weir, Explorer Rebecca Brown, Explorer Sarah Carlin, Explorer Robin Frei, Explorer Marco Gonzalez, Explorer Brian Haney, Explorer Keith Marshall, Explorer Amy McGarvey, Explorer Jennifer Miller, Explorer Paul Robertson, Explorer Tracy Robertson and Explorer Meaghan Young.

Congratulations to GPSAR members Rosella Gray and Frank Gopaul for successfully completing: Emergency Crime Scene Responder Certification.

Congratulations to members Donna Ferron and Dave Park for successfully completing: Stress Management for Emergency Responders.

Congratulations to GPSAR members Gregory Filosa and Matthew Tartaglia for successfully completing: Introduction To Disasters.


Your canine partner can suffer poisoning by consuming common plants or household substances. Some plants that can be poisonous to dogs are:

.autumn crocus .azaleas .bleeding heart .castor bean .daffodil bulbs .elderberry .foxglove .hyacinth bulbs .iris (below-ground stems) .lily of the valley .milkweed .oleander .rhododendron .rhubarb .yew

Household chemicals, of course, are as poisonous to dogs as they are to humans. Most don’t taste good to pets, however, so they are rarely consumed. But take care with these household items, which can be attractive but deadly:

.antifreeze .car exhaust fumes .lawn chemicals .mouse or rat poison .natural gas .pesticides .smoke

Your area poison control center can give you a complete list. Just as you would with a child, keep prescription and over-the-counter medication out of a dog’s reach. Commonly used drugs, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil, Motrin, and aspirin, can also be very harmful to your dog.

If you see your canine partner eating any plant or household substance, stop them immediately. Make note of the time and the substance for veterinary reference and, watch for these symptoms:

.dilated or pinpoint pupils .watery eyes .weak or labored breathing .cold body .rapid heartbeat or excitability .excessive drooling or vomiting .bloody diarrhea .obvious pain, paralysis or coma

 If you see one or more of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you can’t identify the substance that your dog ate, if possible, take the remainder along. If they dog has regurgitated, take that too, it will speed diagnosis.

Thanks to PETsMART veterinary services for the above canine safety information


New Jersey officials have confirmed five cases of equine encephalitis in August of 1998. Horse owners are advised to get their animals vaccinated against the deadly disease. The infection, in spite of its name... equine encephalitis infection.. is most common in mosquitoes and birds, who do NOT suffer any ill effects. It is always fatal in horses and often deadly to humans! During 1997, there was only one case in the State of New Jersey for the entire year.


Question - You are on a mission to rescue someone from the side of a steep cliff. You set up a lowering system and a belay station for your rescuer. You have done a great job and the rescuer has reached the stranded person and secured them with a rescue harness. Unfortunately, they are too high to lower safely to the ground below. It is your job to set up a Z-rig in order to get the mechanical advantage to raise them to the summit. What type of mechanical advantage will you get with this system? For every 30 feet of rope you pull in, how far will your rescuer ascent?

Answer - The Z-rig is a 3:1 mechanical advantage system, which means that for every 3 feet of rope you pull in, your rescuer will ascent 1 foot. Why would you want to use a system that uses up so much rope? Because for every pound of effort you put in, you can raise 3 pounds (not taking friction into consideration).


 As search and rescue professionals, we often encounter a search involving a victim that suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. Instead of the usual article on Alzheimer search techniques, this article will explain about the disease so that you may have a better understanding of the disease, its progression, symptoms, treatment options, causes and prognosis as it may relate to you as a search and rescue professional.

 What is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects the brain, causing memory problems, cognitive disturbances and behavioral changes. It is one of several neurological diseases which cause dementia, and is the fourth largest killer in the United States. Approximately four million Americans currently have AD, and that number is estimated to increase to at least seven million in the United States by the early 21st century. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to affect five percent of people over age 65 and 20 percent of people over age 80.

 Because there are many diseases that can cause symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, a thorough medical evaluation is necessary to make a diagnosis. The evaluation usually requires blood tests and often a brain neuroimaging procedure such as a computed tomography (CAT or magnetic resonance image (MRI) scan. However, there is no simple definite test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. A definite diagnosis is only possible with an autopsy to identify the characteristic neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques of degenerating neurons. These appear in the areas of the brain with important roles in memory, learning and intellectual functioning. The course of Alzheimer’s disease varies tremendously, but the average duration of the illness is 10 to 12 years. Unlike some diseases that can have remissions, Alzheimer’s disease is always progressive.

 What are the treatment options? There is presently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. Tacrine is prescribed to improve the memory impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, but it must be administered under close medical supervision because of side effects. Research is ongoing, and other experimental treatments are currently being tested in multicenter clinical drug trials. These treatments are designed either to improve cognition or to slow the rate of decline. There are also many medications available for the behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, including antidepressants and drugs to control the agitation, anxiety and delusions.

 What are the symptoms? Symptoms usually begin insidiously with impairment of memory, especially for recent events. Other symptoms may include misplacing objects and getting lost. With time, patients become increasingly confused and disoriented. They may have difficulty finding words in conversation. Personality and behavioral changes, such as agitation, depression and delusions, may occur. Judgment often becomes impaired. As the disease progresses, individuals become increasingly dependent on others to take care of themselves. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can vary somewhat in their order of appearance and degree of severity.

 The loss of connections between the neurons affected relate to the symptoms. Drug studies are underway to try to identify drugs which may restore neurotransmitter function. Other areas of research are focused on several naturally occurring trophic factors known to be necessary for the maintenance of certain neuronal populations. For example, nerve growth factor (NGF) has effects on acetylcholine containing neurons and is being studied in aged animals.

 What are the causes? The cause of nerve cell degeneration is unknown. The loss of the neurons result in the loss or diminution of neurotransmitters. AD brains are deficient in acetylcholine, somatostatin and monoamines. A combination of genetic factors, the environment and the aging process appear to plan an important role. A family history of Alzheimer’s disease increases the risk of developing dementia by approximately fourfold at any age. Recently, the importance of an individual’s apolipoprotein E4 allele (APOE e4) status has received significant attention as an important genetic risk factor for  AD. Genetic research on familial AD has identified several subtypes of the familial form. There is some evidence that in a certain hereditary form of the disease, there is a mutation in the gene encoding B-amyloid, giving rise to increased amount of protein. Research is progressing in understanding the basic neurobiology of AD. Of course, Alzheimer’s disease is not contagious.

 Prognosis? Unfortunately, there is presently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and the long-term prognosis is poor. Medications can help with many of the symptoms of the disease and specific strategies for some of the physical and behavioral problems can improve a patient’s quality of life. Vision and hearing problems should be corrected if possible. Medications for other health problems should be evaluated frequently for side effects that may aggravate the confusion of Alzheimer’s disease. Common triggers for behavioral symptoms should be avoided. Families and friends can help by recognizing that Alzheimer’s disease impacts not only the patient, but the primary caregiver. To take the best care of the Alzheimer’s patient, the primary caregiver must take good care of themselves. They should be encouraged to find out more about the disease, avoid isolation, and seek support from family, friends and professionals.

Thanks to the American Academy of Neurology for the above article.


In search and rescue work, one of the problems that is inevitable for searchers is foot problems. Weight of a standing person’s body is concentrated into the comparatively small area that is defined by the footprint. Supporting your own body weight can take its toll over time. In addition, your feet are susceptible to numerous problems involving the skin and nails. With proper care, most foot problems can be controlled if not avoided altogether. Hopefully, this article will get you off on the right foot! Below, we will discuss the most common foot problems encountered.

Skin-related foot problems - Pressure or friction due to tight or poor fitting boots is the usual cause of several foot problems involving the skin. Blisters are an accumulation of fluid under the skin. Most blisters will disappear after a few days if the source of the pressure causing them is removed. Don’t burst the blister, as this exposes the soft skin beneath to the risk of infection. If it breaks on its own, keep it clean and dry, and use an antibiotic ointment if it appears infected. Calluses and corns are thickened areas of skin. Calluses have no distinct borders and usually are not painful. Corns center around a small hard core that can press on the nerves and cause considerable discomfort. Both are readily treated with repeated applications of a products containing salicylic acid over a period of 14 days or so. Bunions most often form on the side of the big toe. They result when the fluid bag that cushions the joint becomes irritated and inflamed, causing it to swell. Use of a soft padding such as moleskin to protect the bunion from rubbing against the inside of the shoe will resolve the problem over the course of time.

Nail-related foot problems - Ingrown toenails occur when the nail becomes imbedded in the grooves of soft skin that flank it on either side. Most of the time, this problem results from improper nail trimming which can cause great pain when walking. Toenails should be cut straight across, not curved. Rounding the edges can direct nail growth into the soft tissue of the groove. If a nail becomes ingrown, products can be used to soften the edge of the nail while hardening the nail groove, thus allowing growth without pain. If pain persists, it is best treated using aspirin or ibuprofen rather than a pain reliever containing acetaminophen, which has no anti-inflammatory effect. If pain or inflammation are severe or persistent, or if an oozing discharge is present, be sure to consult a physician.

Athlete’s foot - A common skin infection caused by fungus is known as athlete’s foot. The infection spreads easily from one set of bare feet to another with damp, warm surfaces such as shower room floors, which provide the likeliest path of transmission. The athlete’s foot fungus thrives in warm, moist areas such as the foot and between the toes. Poorly ventilated boots that allow the feet to become hot and sweaty promote its growth. More severe cases can involve cracking, peeling, scaliness, inflammation, stinging, ulceration, oozing, odor and pain. If any of these occur, be sure to consult a physician.

Many products, both topical and oral (over the counter and prescription), are available to treat athlete’s foot. Usually, a cure can be achieved within 2 to 4 weeks. To reduce chances of reinfection, always wear sandals or other footwear in a locker room or shower area, change socks whenever feet become sweaty, wash socks after each use, keep your feet dry or allow them to air if they do become sweaty, make sure that the boots you wear are adequately ventilated so sweat can evaporate (good quality boots will allow this), allow wet boots to dry thoroughly before wearing them again and, if you use insoles, change them every 3 months.

Always remember to wear comfortable boots with adequate cushioning and plenty of toe room on SAR training's, details and missions. Be sure to change your socks whenever your feet get moist or sweaty (carry extra pairs with you).


Test your knowledge of survival in the wilderness by answering the following questions. Answers to all questions follow after the last question.


1. Which of the 4 survival essentials, food, water, shelter or fire, should you try to arrange for first if you are stranded in the wilderness?

2. You have no water and no obvious water source is available. What are three ways to quench your thirst?

3. What does the letter "V" spelled on the ground mean to a pilot?

4. What are three survival uses for a plastic trash bag?

5. If you build a survival hut, which direction should it face, north, south, east or west, and why?

6. What is the difference between tinder and kindling?

7. Why should you continually look over your shoulder when hiking?

8. What should your biggest concern be when building a snow cave for shelter?

9. How can you tell the difference between mountain lion and wolf tracks?

10. How can you keep warm with only leaves and twigs and no extra clothes or matches at your disposal?


1. Shelter. The majority of wilderness casualties result from exposure, either to extreme cold or extreme heat.

2. a. Use a cloth to soak up morning dew from rocks and nonpoisonous plants (like most grasses), then wring it out into a container or your mouth. b. If you have a plastic trash bag, build a solar still: dig a hole three feet deep and four feet in diameter, place a container at its bottom, and arrange the bag in the hole with a rock at its center, secured around the edges by more rocks, so that one corner of it is about three inches above the receptacle. Heated by the sun, the soil in the hole will produce moisture that will condense on the underside of the plastic sheet and collect in the container. c. Go the plant-a-tree route: use a knife to carve a notch about a half-inch into a hardwood or a sycamore tree, then use a hollow reed to slowly tap the fluid or, slice the bottom off a grapevine or, crush the fruit of a prickly pear cactus after skinning it and removing the spines.

3. Seen from above, a "V" indicates that assistance is required.

4. Here are six: raincoat, rescue flag, insulated coat or sleeping bag (when filled with dead leaves, pine needles, etc.), rainwater catch, solar still (as described above) and a lean-to-cover.

5. East. Situating the entrance to the east allows you to catch the morning sun crucial for heat. Also, since most North American weather patterns move from west to east, you will be able to minimize the chance that wind or rain will blow into your shelter.

6. Thin strands of dry fibers (culled from grass, reeds, or the inner bark of dead trees) that require only a few sparks to ignite are considered Tinder. Small, dry twigs of wood that catch and amplify the incipient flames of tinder are considered Kindling.

7. No, it’s not to watch out for dangerous animals. Animal attacks in the wilderness are rare. The reason for looking over your shoulder is that trails look dramatically different in reverse, so looking over your shoulder is an excellent measure use by experienced guides against getting lost.

8. Suffocation. To avoid this problem, use a stick to create an air vent in the wall. During a blizzard, check the hole frequently to make sure that snowfall has not obscured it. You must watch for this situation, otherwise, snow caves are great shelters. Your body heat can warm a snow cave to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, even as the outside temperature hovers below zero.

9. Feline tracks are rounded while canine tracks show claw marks. These distinctive claw marks will indicate "canine" since feline claws are retracted when they walk.

10. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks or boots, then stuff as many dry leaves into your clothes as possible for insulation. With enough of this insulation, you can even work up a sweat at a brisk walking pace.


A wide range of energy boosters are currently available in bars and shakes now being sold. Many search and rescue personnel carry such bars with them for a fast "boost." The innovative ingredients in these bars include herbs, vitamins and other unique nutrients not found in "candy" bars. These herbs and vitamins are also available individually. Listed below are the most common and sought after ones that you may want to consider for your daily regimen and, to keep some in your wilderness pack. These "booster" bars usually consist of:

Ginkgo biloba - used to increase the supply of oxygen to the brain, as well as increase circulation in general. Gotu kola - used to stimulate the nervous system and help eliminate excess fluid thereby reducing fatigue. Siberian ginseng - used to increase endurance by helping the body make use of fatty acid for energy, instead of tapping quickly-depleted glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. Bee pollen - used to increase energy. Spirulina - algae high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, niacin and vitamin B12. Used for rejuvenation and boosting energy. Cayenne - used to improve circulation and boost action of other herbs. Astragalus - used to boost immunity, lower blood pressure and control blood sugar. Schisandra - used to calm irritability and insomnia. Echinacea - used to boost immunity and help the body fight infection.


A Papua New Guinea man who spent six weeks adrift in a small boat without food as a result of a tsunamis that devastated the country’s northwest coast in July, was rescued by a passing tanker.

The 35 year old man was picked up by the MV Boral Gas in the Bismarck Sea, 14 nautical miles off West Sepik province near Wewak, about 621 miles west of his home.

The man was weak and dehydrated but showed no signs of major illness or injury. He had no food and survived purely on rainwater according to treating physicians.

The man who is married with five children was returned home after a week in the hospital.

More than 2,000 people died when three tsunamis crashed ashore on July 17, sweeping away entire villages. Hundreds are still missing and a large area has been sealed off by officials to allow rotting corpses to decompose.


A 15 year old boy who lay bleeding from a head wound just a few feet from a hospital in Chicago, could not be rescued because hospital rules required that ambulances bring in patients.

Police officers carried the fatally wounded Christopher Sercye into Ravenswood Hospital after he lay there for precious minutes with hospital workers in sight, but refusing to touch him.

A hospital spokeswoman stated that emergency room personnel were barred from dispensing any type of care outside the hospital, but did check to make sure an ambulance had been called.

Three suspected gang members were arrested and charged in the shooting, which occurred while the victim was playing basketball in the alley behind the hospital with friends. After being shot, he stumbled as far as the hospital steps where he collapsed and died while emergency room personnel watched and waited for an ambulance.


In Seattle, Washington, a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it), he got much more than he bargained for.

When police arrived at the scene, they found a man curled up and vomiting next to a motor home near spilled sewage. According to police, the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline and plugged his hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges saying that the man had received more than he ever would in court.


To make your life a little easier, simply accept that some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue !


GPSAR News is published bi-monthly by Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue. Material published herein may be reproduced with credit by other non-profit organizations. Others should request reprint rights from GPSAR. Editorial content may be the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue. The right to edit or not publish submissions is retained by editor, dependant on available space and content of submission.