A competent and experienced bushwalker already has the most important skills required of a searcher. Search and rescue, however, sometimes needs additional skills that are unlikely to be acquired in normal bush and mountain recreation. Some of these specific skills are discussed in this chapter.
With the major exception of coping with hypothermia casualties, first aid treatment has very seldom been essential to the survival of people lost in Victoria. There are probably many reasons for this, including Victoria’s relatively gentle terrain and rarity of dangerous animals, but the main reasons have to do with the nature of search and rescue.
The unavoidable delay between an injury or illness occurring and the casualty being found means that, if the injury or illness was critical, the person would probably have died before help arrived. First aid training for searchers, nevertheless, is very important and is encouraged (sometimes by way of subsidy) by the Search and Rescue Committee. As a searcher, however, you are far more likely to render first aid to another group member than to a lost person.
First aid is best learned by attending one of the many courses run by the Red Cross, St John Ambulance Brigade or similarly accredited organisation. Sometimes a course can be found with an outdoor bias and this is worth investigating. The problem with most basic courses, from the viewpoint of the searcher, is that they assume that only a short time will elapse between the injury or illness and access to professional care. (“Make the casualty comfortable, give reassurance and call the doctor.”)
They do, however, provide the important basic principles. For graduates of one of these basic courses the Bushwalking and Mountaincraft Training Advisory Board’s book titled “Bushwalking and Ski Touring Leadership” has a very useful section on bush first aid. This book is sold in most outdoor equipment stores.