Description ofSoutheast PennsylvaniaSearch and Rescue (SEPASAR):
SEPASAR is an all volunteer organization registered as a non-profit corporation inPennsylvaniaand recognized as a public charity by the IRS (501c3). Its primary mission is to search for, locate, and extricate lost persons in the undeveloped or agricultural areas of the region defined as the SE PA Metroplex which includes 9 counties in 4 states. SEPASAR is the ESF 9 function for the SE PA Task Force (formerly the SE PA Counter Terrorism Task Force) but receives no funding from any government entity.
Originally composed of mounted searchers only, we now include ground personnel for support and active search and EMS functions. We rely on field support from other responders, such as county career staffed mobile command vehicles, and volunteer canteen services for some overhead functions. This reduces duplication of efforts and capital costs. Besides the unique resource of being a mounted unit for search we have been charged with the collateral duties of large animal rescue and disaster planning assistance in the area of livestock. The area served includes the cities of Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington, Norristown, Chester, the farming areas of Chester, Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware counties, rural areas of Delaware, and the Pine Barrens of Burlington County, NJ. Within the 5 county area in Pennsylvania, a highly urbanized area that includes over 25 university campuses there are over 100,000 acres of publicly owned recreational lands in the form of state parks, county parks, and national parks.
These vary in size from the 3400 acres ofGreenLaneCountyPark, the similar sizedValley ForgeNationalHistoricPark, the 9400 acres of the Fairmount Park System,
the 55 miles of trail that constitute the Perkiomen Trail and similar sized parcels. Additional land is owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as hunting preserve.
None of these recreational areas have seen development of major areas for over 100 years with the exception of visitor centers or small administrative buildings. One state park on the border of the primary area, French Creek is 7400 acres surrounded by a state forest and game lands. It was a CCC development area in the 1930s but has seen no construction since then. Much of this public land is ecologically sensitive and or is home to endangered species. At least two locations harbor bald eagles, and possibly more.
SEPASAR encourages its members to participate in the development of search and rescue standards. Some of these activities predate the organizations incorporation.
Members actively participate in several ASTM Committees (F32, Search and Rescue; F30,EMS; and E31, Patient Records), APCO International, NASAR, the local fire chiefs association, the PEHSC, the ISPT, and severalinformal discussion groups.
In August, 2010Pennsylvaniaadopted a new EMS Act which replaced the previous governing law. Under the new statute all search and rescue (SAR) activities carried out by a non-fire department entity come under the supervision of the PA Department of Health, Emergency Medicine Bureau. The draft regulations have been published and are expected to become effective by January 1, 2012. Several conference calls and presentations by the Bureau have emphasized their position that patient care begins on discovery of a search subject and therefore SAR entities must become licensed special operationsEMSprovider agencies. The previous exemption for non-transporting or first aid only treatment has been revoked by the new act.
Since the publication of the new regulations SEPASAR has sought to comply with them so as to anticipate the issuance of the required license. We have accomplished the following so far:
Recruited a board certified physician to be medical directorIdentified and or recruited sufficient personnel to meet minimum staffingEstablished and tested dispatch protocols with the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety, Emergency Dispatch ServicesEntered into the regional mutual aid planEntered into the county communications systemExplored the interoperability issues raised by narrow bandingSigned a provider agreement for training with the SE PA Chapter, Red CrossProposed a mutual aid agreement to the SE PA Chapter, Red CrossProvided preventive services at public eventsIncorporatedIRS determinationPA tax exemptionLiability insuranceEstablished regular e-mail communication with the members to advise them of training opportunitiesPlaced SEPASAR training materials on computer media to conserve resources
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