Chris Vardas alerted the Neighborhood Emergency Team Leaders to this Oregonian article: Confusion hampered search for Kims. As i read it, it became clear that only a succession of mistakes led to James Kim’s death. Tragedy might have been averted had any one of those mistakes not been made.
The first mistake was to take a road normally closed and impassible in the wintertime. This might have been avoided by a good map, or calling in for a road report. Another mistake was not turning around when they encountered boulders in the road (a clue that the route might not be well traveled that time of year), or continuing to proceed when visibility became so bad they had to drive with a car door open just to see the road. Each of these mistakes were little, incremental, but when cascaded together like they were, they very quickly became a big problem. These errors essentially amounted to a failure to take preliminary precautions, to adequately assess the situation and its dangers, and to properly react to them. NET members could face similar challenges, particularly when performing search and rescue operations. One little mistake can lead to another, and to another. Danger can be stealthy; we need to be vigilant.
Eventually the Kim’s recognized they were in a bad situation, and began to respond more appropriately. Unfortunately, it was at that point that the authorities began traveling down their own path of incrementally little mistakes which, taken collectively, had fatal results. A failure to communicate, to properly utilize the resources at their disposal, and a lack of experience were chief among culprits here. Had information been better relayed, had those in charge been more seasoned, or had helicopters with infrared sensors been in the air, the Kims may have been found days earlier, before James set out on his desperate trek. NETs could easily find themselves in a similar situation. None of us are seasoned professionals. And one of the lessons many of use learned at the summer rodeo this year was just how vital good lines of communication are, and how easily they can breakdown.
The final mistake was made by James Kim, and that was to leave the safety of his shelter. He had already waited a week for a rescue, and very likely he began to question if help would ever arrive; he probably felt a growing need to take some kind of action. It is very easy for us armchair quarterbacks, with our keen 20/20 hindsight, to say James should have stayed put. Clearly, had he done so, he would still be alive today. But i imagine James’ desperation increased with each passing day, with no idea if they would ever be rescued. Any of us, in that situation, might have been inclined to do something similar. However they had the essentials of survival: Air, water, shelter. They were not injured. Although they had nearly no food, people can generally survive at least three weeks without it.