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Knowing Nevada: Washoe County HASTY team on standby for regional emergencies

Overlooking Hasty (Courtesy of Bill Macaulay)
Overlooking Hasty (Courtesy of Bill Macaulay)
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To understand just how selfless and dedicated the group of around 140 northern Nevadans are to our community, let's start with a man named Dan Sundaram, a Customer Insights and Analytics Manager for Patagonia.

Dan's start of his day looks a lot like yours: the painful alarm bugging to wake up, a walk to the kitchen, coffee, and sitting down to go through emails.

Except for Dan, along with a number of other northern Nevadans, has a twist to his day to day that comes in the form of a phone notification that changes everything.

“First of all, it's totally random. Any time of day or night. Christmas day or thanksgiving day. That text will say something like ‘need backcountry technical rope rescue and side by sides for an injured mountain biker stage at this location',” said Dan.

Suddenly Dan’s new title is Rescue Technician with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Hasty Team – one of many groups under the sheriff’s oversight

According to Bill Macaulay, a veteran with the Hasty Team, the team's name has a long story to how it came about:

"One of the early rescue incidents that lead to forming the team, in addition to the extrication incident, was an avalanche in the chutes at Mount Rose that killed two young men. They start training for avalanches since nobody outside of a few ski patrollers was preparing for it, and the first rapid response search in an avalanche is called a hasty search. Plus, I have been told that one of the extrication teams in the Northwest that the founders contacted for training were referred to as a Hasty Team, so they sort of picked it up from those two things. And they were focusing on being a rapid response rescue team instead of a traditional search team, so Hasty sort of fit. "

Among the six crews under the WCSO's oversight are:

  1. Air Squadron
  2. Hasty Team
  3. Specialized Vehicle Unit (SVU)
  4. WCSAR (Washoe County Search and Rescue)
  5. WCSAR Canine
  6. Incident Management Team (IMT)

All together they truly do it all.

According to Macaulay, “swift water swimming, scuba diving, high angle rope rescue, working around abandoned mines, basic first aid, CPR, land navigation,” are among some of the skill sets the volunteers provide.

Macaulay started with the Hasty Team only 8 years after the team’s inception in 1971.

Bill shared what prompted the start of the Hasty Team:

One of the original founders experienced a traffic accident where the driver was severely pinned in a wrecked vehicle in the water. There was no skill set or equipment set at that time that could rescue him and he watched that guy drown... He approached the sheriff and said this is something we need to provide for the community.

According to WCSO Spokesman, Sgt. Jeff McCaskill, the six SAR teams are able to save the county around a million dollars every year because of their work. The teams are not paid by anyone, they only receive donations and WCSO foots the bill for supplies needed, like gas, during missions.

Sgt. McCaskill said, "The topography in our area, as everyone knows from the Black Rock desert to the highest elevations with cliffs and just all the obstacles that northern Nevada has to offer. These men and women train in it, they know it they know the area well and they are essential "

From air to ground, the SAR teams are called out for rescues anywhere within county bounds -- which stretches all the way up to Oregon and down to Carson City.

The money saved is huge for the county, said McCaskill, but the men and women volunteering their time and safety tell me they are not doing it to buy a second home in the Hamptons.

Dan said,

To be able to serve the community and really live out that value. To do the things I love and do it with a great group of people, that to have a real team environment of people that you kind of meet along the way and build relationships with. In my mind that is like a confluence of three really awesome things.

For Bill,

They are willing to give up time and money and family life and kind of put some stresses on at work to be able to do this kind of thing. But really its a desire to be a part of something that is more than you and your little world.

Dan shared with me the kind of people you find in the group of 140 selfless souls, "There are some incredible skiers, some world-class climbers, there are some -- some folks on the team that know every single inch of the Truckee River because it is their job. It is a shared loved for the environment that we operate in and that sense of being part of a great team and being part of the community."

If you would like to donate to these six teams with WCSO, you can go here.

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