Help group needs help
AMY ZUBEK/TIMES NEWS East Penn Technical Search and Rescue volunteers Roger Tobias, left; Robert Valusek, center; and Don Wilcox, strap Bradley Wilcox into a sked stretcher during a mock search and rescue mission in Carbon County. The mock mission included a K-9 search of the area to locate the lost hiker, portrayed by Bradley Wilcox, in a wooded area. The group is in need of the community's help so they can remain an active volunteer emergency rescue team in the area.
East Penn Technical Search and Rescue is in trouble.
Financial trouble that is.
The all-volunteer rescue group that serves Carbon and Monroe counties is asking for the community's help so that they can remain an active emergency search and rescue team in the area.
Roger Tobias, founder and chief of East Penn Technical Search and Rescue, said the group needs to come up with nearly $5,000 over the next few weeks to cover the costs for insurance. A total of $2,320 for liability insurance is due on Feb. 1, while the remaining $2,600 for workers' compensation insurance is due by March 1.
Right now, he said, the group has a total of $195 in its account, which is allocated for fuel costs and the emergency vehicle payment. This means that if the funds are not raised quickly, East Penn Technical Search and Rescue, which has assisted in numerous emergency situations in Carbon and Monroe, as well as during 9/11 in New York City, will be forced to disband. Currently, the group receives no financial assistance from state or federal levels and depends primarily on fundraising efforts and the generosity of the community.
"At the present time and with this economy, we're in desperate need of immediate financial assistance," Tobias said. "We're on the verge of being forced to disband. We don't know where to turn next except to the community for help."
He played around with a possible solution, noting that if every municipality in the county, as well as the county itself, would contribute a total of $75 to $100 annually, the group would have more than enough to cover a significant amount of its expenses.
"Right now we do this for free," Tobias said, noting that the group does not charge for its services. "We don't want to bill anyone when we help out."
He added that in addition to the $5,000 needed for insurance coverage, the group is also trying to raise nearly $6,000 through fundraising efforts to purchase necessary rescue equipment, including drysuits for water and ice rescues, river rescue boards, cold weather exposure jackets, a multi-gas meter, and Class V personal flotation devices.
Currently, all 21 members of the group are trained and certified in numerous areas of search and rescue techniques, including land search, water and ice rescue, dive recovery, technical rope rescue, confined space rescue and structural collapse rescue. They also have five certified K-9 rescue teams to assist in both air scent and bloodhound searches.
Tobias said the costs each member pays varies per their expertise. Costs to properly prepare one rescue volunteer can range from $500 to over $5,000.
"Our team members give much of their own time training and own money for personal equipment to meet state and federal guidelines," he said. "Our unit depends upon donations and contributions from the public to remain operational."
The group is thankful for its current supporters who have helped by storing equipment. They include Stroud Township Volunteer Fire Company, which allowed the group to store its inflatable raft at the company's substation; as well as the Carbon County Commissioners and Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, for allowing the group's equipment trailer to be stored at the facility in 2008.
East Penn Technical Search and Rescue is a non-profit, volunteer organization that began operations in June 1993. The group has since grown and serves anyone in need of emergency services. It is dedicated to working with all emergency service and law enforcement agencies to locate lost or overdue persons and provide technical rescue and evacuation services when required.
Over the last two years, East Penn Technical Search and Rescue has participated in searching for a missing Alzheimer's patient in Saylorsburg; two missing teens in Indian Mountain Lake Estates; a missing hunter in Nescopeck State Park; a hiker at Jim Thorpe campground; a 4-year-old boy in Towamensing Township; and an 11-year-old boy in Weatherly. They have also participated in a body recovery mission at Mauch Chunk Lake.
To make a monetary donation to the group, mail checks to Roger Tobias, 219 Laurel Drive, Tobyhanna, PA, 18466. Make checks payable to East Penn Technical Search and Rescue.
For more information on the group or on how to become a volunteer, visit http://www.eastpennsar.com.