S.O.R.T. – Special Operations Rescue Team
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office Multi-Jurisdictional Special Operations Rescue Team (SORT) is a unit which utilizes special equipment and tactics to respond to and resolve various high-risk search and rescue operations as assigned by the Sheriff or designated Commander.
SORT is a designated unit of law enforcement officers and fire personnel that are specifically trained and equipped to work as a coordinated team to resolve critical search and rescue incidents that are so hazardous, complex, or unusual that they may exceed the capabilities of first responders or volunteer units including, but not limited to, technical rope (high angle) rescue, swift water rescue, backcountry rescue, and other high-risk search incidents.
SORT has been operational for over a decade, starting with only three deputies and a sergeant and has since expanded to working with our local law enforcement partners.
A high volume of SORT calls and/or missions are in the Olympic National Forest area up to and including the High Steel Bridge and Skokomish River. Financial support for SORT comes from federal reimbursement. One mission can take days if not months to complete. Search and Rescue, on average for Mason County, responds to 12 calls for service a year.
SORT works as a hasty team that can respond quickly when needed. Team members are expected to complete and maintain a high degree of complex training. This training is conducted monthly at various locations.
The initial basic training is broken into four categories:
Law Enforcement Mountain Operations School.(LEMOS).
This course covers the basics of travel, survival, wilderness first aid and rescue, wilderness ethics, and navigation, as well as tactics. A 60+ hour course taught in an outdoor setting, LEMOS provides classroom instruction combined with extended outdoor practice. To pass the course, students are expected to come prepared, complete all exercises, and pass a written test.
Rope Rescue Technician Course.
This course covers the following skills: Equipment selection, inspection and maintenance; knots; anchors; patient packaging; mechanical advantage systems; belay techniques (including traditional or “slack” belays, tensioned belays, and the use of Twin Tensioned Rope Systems); lowering systems; rappelling; knot passing through rappels, raising and lowering systems; system safety factors; litter rigging and tending; and pick-offs. Practical application is taught through scenarios drawn from actual rescue experience.
Swift Water Rescue Technician Course.
This course provides rescuers with the fundamentals of survival in moving water and is recommended for anyone who may be called upon to effect in-water rescues. Students gain knowledge in hydrology and river classifications, size-up, site control and scene management. Practical skills include self-rescue, Swiftwater swimming and the fundamentals of shore, boat, and in-water rescues.
ATV training course.
This course provides instruction and develops safety knowledge and awareness. Students will practice riding skills and patient care along with using an attached ATV rescue litter trailer.