The Volcano Rescue Team (VRT) was formed in 1986 under the auspices of North Country EMS. This organization provides a resource to handle mountain-related incidents with the opening of Mt. St. Helen’s to climbing. The team still operates under the NCEMS umbrella, but is totally volunteer and is self-supporting. The VRT has acquired some team equipment through fundraisers, and grants but members provide all of their own personal equipment, which can easily exceed $2,000.
The function of the team has broadened somewhat since its inception, and now provides hasty search teams and other rescue functions around the mountain and the NCEMS service district. This is in addition to its function as a technical mountain rescue organization. The VRT is an accredited member of and follows the training guidelines of the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA).
The members are highly trained in all aspects of rescue and emergency medical services. The training received by the VRT members meets all the requirements of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for search teams. In addition, the training goes beyond search training and includes all aspects of mountain rescue, cave rescue, avalanche SAR, high angle rescue, crevasse rescue, etc.
VRT members progress through four stages of membership; beginning with “Unequipped”, then to “Trainee”, progressing to “Support”, then to “Rescue”. All members in the Support and above category must have their full compliment of equipment and clothing, and have it ready for immediate use.
The VRT is designed to be a rapid response group and members are alerted to respond to the fire station or a set location immediately upon receipt of the information; therefore, applicants living in close proximity to the area are preferred. They must be equipped to be self sufficient for 24 hours under any condition.
Most VRT members are also members of NCEMS and work as volunteers on the ambulance service. They therefore have in addition to their EMS training, received practical experience in dealing with patients and treating medical emergencies. A minimum of the 48 hour First Responder Course is encouraged and offered for all members without any first aid training; however, most members of the VRT are EMT’s and Paramedics.
Persons desiring to volunteer for the Volcano Rescue Team must be physically fit, determined by a physical agility test. While no prior mountaineering experience is necessary, it is helpful and preference is given to those applicants with outdoor experience and training. Regular monthly meetings on the second Monday of every month are required. In addition, monthly field and classroom training is scheduled for all members