PSAR Symposium: Creating Support for Preventive Search & Rescue Teams
Celebrating and uniting the PSAR volunteer community, from Hawaii to the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
In 2019, Grand Canyon National Park Preventive Search and Rescue (PSAR) hosted the first-ever in-person PSAR symposium to celebrate Grand Canyon's centennial and our hard-working PSAR volunteers. The event, supported by Grand Canyon Conservancy (GCC), provided training to staff and volunteers, and offered a venue for PSAR managers to gather and discuss trends, learn about other programs, and build community.
This symposium came out of the changes created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our annual training for staff and volunteers was restricted to those who were new and who needed training. Throughout the pandemic, Grand Canyon PSAR received more and more requests from other parks seeking information about the program, how it's funded and managed, and how they could receive tips about starting or overhauling PSAR programs across the agency. By 2023, it was clear there was high demand, and PSAR was at the forefront of beginning to meet those needs.
We cast a wide net with the help of Grand Canyon Superintendent Ed Keable, who reached out to his constituents to let them know about the opportunity. On the first day of signups, we were clearly on the right track. This year's symposium was held April 27–29, 2023, at the South Rim of Grand Canyon, with the support of GCC and in conjunction with Joshua Tree National Park. The event kicked off with keynote speakers Jennifer Proctor and Ina Hysi from the Washington Office of Risk Management.
Of the 150 people who attended each day, 40 were managers from 31 park sites across the U.S. and as far away as Haleakala, Hawaii. The curriculum included preparedness and risk assessment, heat illness, and radio operations. There was an afternoon split track for managers covering topics such as volunteer management, signage, and messaging, and open forums to discuss the growing PSAR needs across the system.
Since the event, engagement among program managers has continued, and new members have reached out to join the larger conversation. Grand Canyon PSAR is so grateful for the continued dedication and hard work of its volunteers, as well as the support of GCC. We could not run our day-to-day operation or put on such a successful event without that support.
By Meghan Smith, Preventive Search & Rescue Supervisor, Grand Canyon National Park