I've been meaning to post this for a while now, and having just celebrated the exceptional work of volunteers in general at last weekend's annual volunteer picnic, it seems like a good time to pass this along.
Bill Marsh is our volunteer Meadow Rover Coordinator at Paradise. He sent me this note on July 25, commending the performance of three Meadow Rovers, Mike and Nancy Henderson and Karen Overturf. The letter is a long one, but it deserves to be shared in its entirety, because it represents the indomitable spirit of so many of our volunteers here at Mount Rainier National Park, and it reminds me why I'm so proud to be part of this program. Bill told his story in person at the picnic, and the park's Acting Superintendent, Randy King, has extended his personal thanks to everyone involved.
I would like to know the Mount Rainier procedure for formally commending and recognizing an almost 'super human effort' performed by three outstanding Meadow Rovers today at Paradise! The Meadow Rovers' names are Mike and Nancy Henderson and Karen Overturf. I have already talked this over with Ranger Jacquot and he said that I should contact you directly and copy to Patricia and of course to him as well.
As you know our recent warm weather has not only finally started to melt things out, but it has brought the number of visitors to Paradise to its typical summertime 'sunny day' fever pitch. For some reason only a handful of rovers have been coming to the mountain this summer even though Ranger Jacquot has sent out emails to them requesting help. However, Mike, Nancy and Karen have already made multiple visits and performed in an outstanding manner mitigating several snow covered trail issues, providing safer passage along the trail for our visitors.
Having stated the above I now come to the heart of this email.....
Today, Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Paradise, I started the day with 6 Rovers including myself. One Rover had arrived early and had already headed out (9am) to Panorama Point before I had arrived (9:15). Yet another Rover arrived and headed out without checking in with me... Then Mike, Nancy and Karen arrived.
Our focus today was to be digging through three feet of ice/snow, covering the sets of stairs at the start of the Skyline Trail near the JVC at Paradise. We have literally been trying to complete that task for several days due to the hazardous conditions the ice/snow cover over the stairways has presented. This has been a very difficult area for many of our ill prepared visitors with their 'snow unfriendly' footwear.
I had already been working by myself for a couple of hours when Nancy, Mike and Karen arrived, just 'in the nick of time' I might add, to help. The only thing that allowed me to cut though the ice was a wildland firefighting Pulaski tool, so as one of the three started directing traffic around the 'construction zone,' the other two immediately jumped in and started moving the snow and ice as I cut through it. We had been at it for two hours, non-stop, when I overheard a call go out on my radio that a ranger had come upon an injured hiker, who had fallen and was down and unable to move due to an injured back near Marmot Hill, in the Glacier Vista area.
I would like to note at this point, that I was already aware of a very technical SAR operation ongoing high on the mountain, involving several climbing rangers. I also knew that the only two qualified climbing rangers were either assigned to parking lot duty or were resetting safety poles and lines along the snow banks above the parking lots in the Paradise area. The other 'mountain qualified' rangers were LE rangers who were very busy trying to deal with our many visitors and their vehicles coming to and from the mountain.
I would also like to note that I have over 35 years of professional, emergency services experience, as firefighter/paramedic, and as the chief of the largest Medic One program in King County. I am intimately knowledgeable with the Incident Command System and served as Incident Commander at several large scale incidents. I also have over 30 years of mountain rescue experience, including the positions of field and base operations leader. My reason for wanting to give you this additional information is that I wanted for you to be able to judge whether or not my experience level would allow me to make certain decisions, 'on my own,' based on my experience level and the ability to have situational awareness and multitask in times of emergency operations.
Having stated the above, I now arrive at the heart of this email...
I had prior knowledge of Nancy, Mike and Karen's physical fitness abilities, having worked with them before. So, I turned to them and said, "I can't direct you to do what I am about to ask of you, but would you be willing to assist the the carry-out of an injured hiker near Marmot Hill due to the resources already being stretched very thin?" Without hesitation, all three, almost in unison, said, "Absolutely!"
I then explained, in detail, what the mission might entail, in that they would be assisting qualified personnel already at the scene, and that they would be helping rangers move a litter up hill at a fairly good clip, as well as describing what carrying a loaded litter over snow and uneven terrain would entail. They, once again, without hesitation, and again in unison said, "Where do you want us to go!"
At this point, I contacted dispatch by radio and told them that I had three capable and willing volunteers available to help with the evacuation of the patient if needed. Dispatch contacted one of the LE climbing ranger supervisors via radio and advised her of our available personnel. The response was an immediate, "Yes!" She asked for our personnel to respond to the 'Old Station' to meet the climbing ranger. Mike, Nancy and Karen arrived there three minutes later. Within ten minutes 'our' three volunteers and the climbing ranger came flying by me with litter in hand. You might also like to know that the volunteers' ages ranged from fifties to sixties. And please remember what they had been doing, prior to heading up the hill, in the heat of the day.
The times elude me at the moment, but I would estimate that they were up and back down with the patient in approximately two to three hours! But the story does end here!
I asked all three of them individually how were they doing the first chance I had, expecting to hear... "EXHAUSTED!!!" But NO...all three said they felt great and actually thanked me for the opportunity to help!
At this point, I assisted with putting the patient in the ambulance and talked with the rangers involved to ask how 'our' personnel performed. To a person, they all said that they would have had a difficult time without the additional help and that our volunteers all performed in an exemplary manner, with enthusiasm and professionalism.
While I was talking to the rangers, I was assuming that Mike, Nancy and Karen would be either done for the day, or taking an extended break, which I told them they certainly could do, and I certainly expected.... but was I ever wrong! I turned around and what did I see... Mike, Nancy and Karen back at the ice pack on the stairs, chopping, shoveling, poling, roping away like nothing had happened!!!
Oh! But I am not done!!!
I rejoined them, told them how proud I was of them for their feat of strenuous heroism and volunteering to go in the first place. All three just brushed it off, as though it were just another day's work! We continued to work together with Mike and I pounding in metal poles on either side of the trail and fixing lines as we went. At about six o'clock Nancy came up to me and asked if I had ever had a chance to go out to check trail conditions to Myrtle Falls. She knew I had been wanting to do so all day, due to reported hazards on the trail. I said that I had not been able to break away. She then asked that if I didn't mind, that she and Karen would go out to the falls to check trail conditions and be back before seven to catch the shuttle's last ride down hill.
Needless to say, I almost fell over with amazement at what she had just asked permission to do, given the events and activities of the day. But, I could see her determination, so I said, "Sure, why not." In the meantime Mike and I continued our task at hand.
At a few minutes before seven, as promised, Nancy and Karen were back with a trail report. Unfortunately, I had been aware of the tragic traffic accident that prevented the shuttle being at the pick up point at 7. It was more like eight o'clock. I am aware of the time frame, because I was just leaving the JVC, having just briefed my supervisor, Ranger Jacquot. I wanted to be sure that he was made aware of all of the events of the day. I especially wanted to make him aware of the the 'super-human' efforts and actions of our three volunteers, who had gone far above and beyond the call of duty!
And now the finishing touch...
For the hour that Mike, Nancy and Karen had to wait for their ride down hill, did they sit idly by on the benches with the visitors that were also waiting to head down hill... NO!!! Mike and Nancy Henderson, along with fellow Rover Karen Overturf, spent the hour picking up trash around the JVC.
I can tell you right now Kevin, that in my humble opinion, these three individuals deserve to be recognized and rewarded, somehow, for their actions of this day, and that it should, again, in my humble opinion, come from several pay grades above mine and I hope you feel the same way and will pass this email right up and through the chain of command to the very top!
I would like to close by saying that, in all of my professional and volunteer experience, these three individuals stand shoulder to shoulder with highest ranks of the emergency services first responders who also performed in the same manner. 'Our' personnel have redefined the meaning and job description of what it means to be a "VOLUNTEER!" Their exemplary actions today should be the standard we should all aspire to attain. In addition, the Rangers and support staff should also be commended for their professional actions given the events of the day!
I would look forword to discussing this email further with you, at anytime.
Volunteer Meadow Rover Coordinator