Portal Rescue News


January 2018
Portal Rescue, Inc., P.O. Box 16331, Portal, AZ 85632 Tel: (520) 558-2206; Emergency Calls Only: 911 www.Portalrescue.com

President’s Report

Bill Wilbur

Another year passes into history and with it, we commend the Portal Rescue volunteers who have worked so hard to support our community.

Many thanks to David Newton our Fire Chief and Jackie Lewis our Treasurer. While Jackie is on leave, thanks to Rick Beno for stepping in to assume the Treasurer duties. A special thanks to Morgan Jackson for her dedicated efforts as Chairman of the successful donation drive and continuing thanks to Chris Wilbur for coordinating the annual February “Soup’ s On!” (previously known as the Soup Kitchen). Thanks also to Jennifer Racicot for her efforts with the annual November Chief’s Lunch. And, not to be forgotten, Barbara Miller for her continued calendar maintenance and fund raising efforts.

Ray Mendez assumed the office of Vice President and brought a new focus to the Portal Rescue Board. Tamara Lawson was elected secretary, replacing Terri Farley and John Yerger moved from Member-at- Large to become the new EMT Chief, replacing Jerry Racicot. Susanne Apitz was elected Member-At-Large.

A footnote here: The Soup Kitchen name was changed because folks outside the community thought we were feeding the needy in a soup kitchen, so they didn’t attend. We hope this will make the purpose clear. Be sure to check this year’s “Soup’s On!” raffle for some very special prizes by some unique artists.

Tonight, as I write this, there are only three firefighters and one EMT available for service. Why so few? One reason is the Christmas holiday with many visiting family, some working away from home and illness accounting for the rest. 2018 won’t be any easier with the retirement of EMTs Susanne Apitz, Joe Meenach and Donna Meenach. Many thanks to them for their dedicated service.

Years ago, Portal Rescue had over 24 trained EMTs available to work between Portal and Rodeo. That number diminished through lack of participation, no equipment available, costs of maintaining EMT certification and conflicts in training requirements between Cochise and Hidalgo counties. At the lowest

point, according to Delane Blondeau, there were only two Portal Rescue EMTs. Our EMT Chief reminded me today that we currently have only three EMTs available.

Volunteering does not mean you have to live in the area full-time. When you are here, you can help. It’s necessary for an organization to have sufficient volunteers (both Fire and EMT) to support the community. It is difficult to maintain a trained staff in a small community. Portal Rescue will take any help we can get. So, please, even if you are only available part time, consider volunteering.

We look forward to 2018 with the beginning of the Firewise program, the continued support from the community, as well as the valuable efforts of the Portal Rescue volunteers. Please note that Firewise is independent from Portal Rescue but we will support it however possible. To the New Year!

Fire Chief’s Report

David Newton

It was an average year for Portal Fire with eight fire calls. Two were lightning starts, while the other six were related to humans (two escapes from open burning, county mower, a wind downed power line, etc.)

The June 5th fire in downtown Portal consumed at least one shed in addition to 2.6 acres of brush adjacent to homes. Fires in Portal are actually pretty common and I fully support local homeowner’s recent efforts to make their property and community more Firewise.

Local Training: Annual fireline refresher, tender operations and drafting, foam operations, wildland drills, and short-staffed operations.

Special Training: One additional firefighter qualified as a Rope Rescue Technician and another re- qualified at that level. Two firefighters were able to participate in a prescribed burn south of Sierra Vista.

Thank you for your support.

EMS Chief Report

John Yerger

I was voted in as EMS Chief in November, so this is my first newsletter as Chief. I’d like to thank the EMTs for their vote of confidence, and I appreciate all the support I’ve received so far. The position requires a great deal of time and dedication, but it is an honor to be able to serve in this capacity.

2017 was a busier year than most, with 26 medical calls. Looking at the statistics, it is sobering to realize how often we have the bare minimum number of EMTs available at any given time to provide an effective response. Without enough of our own EMTs to answer the call, community members must wait for EMTs from Douglas, which can easily quadruple the amount of time one must wait for emergency medical care. Every Portal Rescue EMT is a critical member of the team, and we are eager to expand that team to better provide for the community. If you or someone you know has ever considered signing on, there’s no time like the present! It is often difficult to organize a certification class for a small group, but we are currently exploring online options and other creative means of certifying a new class of EMTs. Rest assured that you will have the full support of this team if you are able to join us.

A brief note to residents that if you must call 911 from a cell phone, please remind the dispatcher that Portal Rescue is your closest resource. Cell phone calls are routed through New Mexico even if you are in Arizona, which can be confusing for everyone.

Another reminder: if you do not yet have an air ambulance membership, please consider it. We live in a beautiful but remote area, and one-third of our patients must be transported by helicopter to advanced medical care. See the Medical Helicopter Membership article on this page for further information.

By purchasing the three memberships listed, you are all but certain to receive air transport in an emergency with ZERO out-of-pocket cost. When compared with a potential bill for tens of thousands of dollars, $190 - $240 seems well worth the upfront expense.

Thanks again to our volunteer EMTs – know that you are highly valued! And thanks again to our community supporters – without you, Portal Rescue would not exist.

Treasurer’s Report

Jackie Lewis

- Expenses came in under budget.
- Donations for 2017 totaled $30,210.66
- The full Treasure's Report will be given at the
Annual Meeting.

Portal Rescue Investments

Bill Wilbur, past President & Treasurer

Recently a Board member was asked why the Board doesn’t just place all the donated money in a bank. The Board of Directors has chosen to place sufficient funds into a checking account to cover the years proposed budget. The remainder is then available to invest.

Here is where any investment has to be made responsibly. In a bank account or in a Money Market fund the money earns minimal interest, usually less than one-quarter percent per year.

Then we were asked why the money isn’t being used to purchase dividend paying stocks or bonds? The reason is that there is risk involved and State and Federal laws state that a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization has a responsibility to protect the principal with insured investments.

The choice left to us is to invest in guaranteed CD’s where the principal is insured and dividends earn between three-quarters to three percent, depending upon the length of investments. These investments are better than Money Market investments but do not pay higher yields where risk is involved.

Further, the Board chooses to spread the investments out, called laddering. This is done for access to smaller amounts of funds should a need arise. And, yes, a small penalty is assessed for cashing in investments early. For the years were the Treasurer has invested in CD’s there have been earnings that make the effort of investing worth the trouble.


This note is intended as a glimpse into a concept wildland firefighters use to reduce the risk of our task. Wildland firefighters wear light protective gear that won’t burn and allows us to work all day, but provides very little protection against the radiant heat of flames. So it is crucial that we avoid being entrapped by the fire.

One of the basic concepts we use to avoid entrapment was developed 22 years ago and goes by the acronym LCES – Lookouts, Communications, Escape routes, Safety zones. Each of these parts must be known by all firefighters before it is needed.

Lookouts – Will keep us informed about what the fire is doing and when we should retreat. We’ll use an experienced person with good fire behavior knowledge and radio skills and a good vantage point. The lookout will sometimes provide periodic weather observations of temperature, humidity, and wind and will be alert for abrupt changes in weather. We won’t put a newcomer here and we might need more than one.

Communications – This mostly means radio communications with our supervisor and our lookouts and our adjacent forces. We’ll bring extra batteries. We’ll need backup plans if for example terrain interferes or if the channel becomes too busy. If we don’t have a radio – we’ll stick close to someone who does.

Escape routes – Ways to get to the safety zone. We’ll want more than one, because our first choice may be cut off. Routes uphill or over rocks or vegetation aren’t good. Can we traverse it fast enough? Our trucks aren’t as fast over rough roads as our privately owned vehicles. We’ll park our vehicles for quick escape.

Safety zones – A place to survive without using the fire shelter we all carry. Frequently we’ll use a well burnt area (the “black”) for a safety zone. The zone needs to be big enough to keep you at least four flame lengths away from the fire. So if the tall grass has 15 foot flame lengths we’ll need a place with 60 feet of unburnable ground around us. If there’s wind (likely) it needs to be even bigger.

The tricky thing is that as we and the fire move across the terrain we’ll need to be constantly adjusting and rethinking these 4 parts. It can become quite a challenge during the heat and smoke of the moment. So much so that it is a common approach in some fuels to “keep one foot in the black” or to “attack from the black”. That way we have to think less about where our escape route and safety zone is - because it’s right there with us.

That’s it for the glimpse – Here’s a link to the originator’s document on the subject. http://www.wildlandfire.com/docs/gleason/lces.htm

Portal First Search & Rescue Team

Dinah Davidson

Portal Rescue has occasionally been involved in search and rescue (SAR) for missing or injured persons, though few active members or other local folks have had formal SAR training. With some introductory training, local volunteers might usefully be deployed (indeed, have been deployed) in several specific kinds of situations, e.g.:

(1) A local community member is suddenly discovered to be missing, or is injured in the back country.

(2) Prior to any 911 call, a visitor (hiker, camper, naturalist) missing or injured in the back country is reported locally, e.g., to SWRS, the Portal Store, or the USFS Visitor Center.

(3) County SAR personnel have been notified of a possible missing person and request preliminary checks on vehicles at trailhead, hikers along trails, etc., prior to mobilization of their own resources.

To address introductory training for such occasions, PR EMT and firefighter Lee Dyal organized a short course taught in the PR classroom on November 10 and 11 by four visiting instructors from Cochise County SAR. Thirteen active PR members and seven other community members attended. Presentations covered basic elements of SAR, including interviewing techniques, evaluation of search urgency, patterns in behaviors of lost individuals, statistical details of search outcomes, use of compasses (alone and with maps), and tracking techniques. Instructors brought many years of experience to the class and regaled students with numerous and occasionally unforgettable accounts of searches in which they had participated.

Following up on this after the holidays, nine of the students attended a practice session on January 16. Led by Dinah Davidson, this exercise focused on interviewing techniques and early stages of search organization. Pairs of attendees composed richly detailed missing person scenarios and were then interviewed by other pairs, who attempted to extract useful information from the ‘reporting individuals’, and also filled in missing person questionnaires. One member of the interviewing pair acted as IC (Incident Commander) and took responsibility for establishing the IPP, taking action to confine the search area, initiating a hasty search, and determining what additional resources should be summoned. Valuable lessons were learned, and many suggestions were offered for revising the standard questionnaire.

Other SAR exercises (e.g., map and compass training) are envisioned for the future and are intended both to polish skills and keep the group’s momentum going. Any group member is welcome to plan and implement such training sessions, and 1 or more members will take the full SAR training in Sierra Vista. All members are encouraged to increase the breadth of their experience by, e.g., hiking, becoming familiar with local maps and geography, and attending community meetings sponsored by Border Patrol.

There’s always room for more. Join us!

Radio Communications Operators

aka: RCOs. RCOs allow more EMTs to be on a call instead of manning a phone and radio. They are a vital link in the 9-1-1 system for Portal Rescue as they coordinate resources requested by the EMTs on scene.

Just like EMTs, they get woke in the middle of the night by a special ring tone and often head out the door pulling on a shoe or shirt sleeve. Even less glamorous when you know they are headed to a dark station and often a cold room to wait for instructions.

We send a big note of appreciation to the RCOs that head to the station when called:

Doug & JoAnn Julian, Maya Decker, Gerry Hernbrode, Don Wadsworth,

And those that can assist from home:

Susanne Apitz, Bill Wilbur, Jackie Lewis, Rick Beno, David Newton, Pat Owens

Smoke Alarms Save Lives.

Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.

  1.  Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  2.  An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection - both types of alarms or a combination alarm (photoelectric and ionization) should be installed in homes.
  3.  Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  4.  Smoke rises; install smoke alarms following manufacturer's instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer's instructions for testing and maintenance.
  5.  Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  6.  Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly.
  7.  Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  8.  Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.
  9.  If cooking fumes or steam sets off nuisance alarms, replace the alarm with an alarm that has a "hush" button. A "hush" button will reduce the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time.
  10.  An ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
  11.  Smoke alarms that include a recordable voice announcement in addition to the usual alarm sound, may be helpful in waking children through the use of a familiar voice.
  12.  Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices use strobe lights. Vibration devices can be added to these alarms
  13.  Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan.

Nation Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Home Alarm Safety Tips”, retrieved 14 Jan 2012.http://www.nfpa.org

How do I know if I’m dehydrated?

Article excerpts from familydoctor.org

Most of us live in a state of dehydration. Here’s how to know if you’re dehydrated.

Symptoms of dehydration include:
Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual

Dry mouth
Extreme thirst

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

Sleepiness or fatigue Headache
No tears when crying

Tips for staying hydrated

  1. Keep a bottle of water with you during the day.
  2. If plain water doesn’t interest you, try adding a slice
    of lemon or lime to your drink.
  3. If you’re going to be exercising, make sure you drink
    water before, during and after you workout.
  4. Start and end your day with a glass of water.
  5. When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. The
    sensation of thirst is often confused with hunger. True
    hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water.
  6. Drink on a schedule if you have trouble remembering
    to drink water.
  7. Drink water when you go to a restaurant.

Decaffeinated beverages, clear juices and broths and jello can also be counted in your daily fluid intake.


Howard Topoff 2011