On a recent sales call for LiftShack, I connected with Jake Elkins, Ski Patrol Director at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and Jake shared some very interesting thinking that he and his staff have been exploring over the past 2 years. I thought I might share a brief synopsis of our discussion as I think and believe this is positive innovative thinking that we often don’t hear a whole heck of a lot in the mountain operations world.
In our discussion, Jake shared how he had begun working with the Teton County Search & Rescue and Sheriff’s department, and other emergency responders Wyoming relative to Incident Command Systems. Now I know this isn’t totally new but the level of commitment Jake and his team have made to ICS is way beyond what I have seen or heard about from mountain ski patrols.
For those who are not fully immersed in the Incident Command System, it really makes sense once you stop and follow it through. There are multiple levels of training and structure developed to cover most every disaster/emergency situation imaginable. Here is the high level structure from Homeland Security; there are multiple components within each block but the simplicity remains constant as you drill down.
Jake and the team at Jackson Hole have begun to structure their on-mountain procedures to follow this framework:
- Being prepared
- Communicate and manage the information
- Have a command and management structure
- Ongoing preparedness and training
Not speaking for Jake but I get the idea that he has the sense of where emergency response is headed, state control over EMT processes with standardization of management and documentation. In his case with extensive backcountry terrain there are many times the SAR gets handed to another agency while Jackson Hole Ski Patrol is still involved. If the protocol of management is consistent, valuable time is saved in the hand off as all are using the same system.
Jake has mentioned that there is gradual shift towards this protocol but the belief is that even a simple event handled by a single patroller can follow the basic guidelines of ICS.
A single responder can put an incident facts into the buckets depicted on this schematic — while many will say it is not necessary. However, if the training is such that each response is processed in this manner, when the incident is of a magnitude that has many players and with numerous actions, I think all can see the value of this thinking.
Good luck to Jake and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for their forward thinking. Hopefully Jake will keep the mountain operations community up to date on his efforts.