ROGUE RIVER, Ore. — With the weather warming up and people tired of being stuck inside, folks may begin flocking to southern Oregon's beautiful waterways. Search and rescue teams in the area are also gearing up for more water rescue calls.
But the way Jackson and Josephine County Search and Rescue teams are responding to those, and other mission calls is a bit different due to the ongoing pandemic.
Both counties sheriff departments said they are issuing PPE to the team members and limiting the number of people per vehicle whenever possible. Additionally, both of the counties canceled all group training sessions for the foreseeable future.
"Well our biggest challenge is vehicles," Josephine County Sheriff's Deputy Maria Valdez, who also serves as the county's search and rescue coordinator said. "Just with limiting the people in the vehicles, it may look like we have a lot of vehicles but when we have all these searches come out we don't so that has been quite a challenge for me trying to figure that out."
That challenge is exacerbated when multiple calls in at once. Because of that, the Josephine County Sheriff's Department is asking people to take extra precautions when venturing outside. And with limited resources, people will need to be patient and stay calm as it may take search and rescue teams longer to get to the people who need them.
"You have to have a balance between searcher safety and getting the job done," Valdez said. "COVID-19 has added some additional challenges to where are searchers are at risk before they even get on scene."