Search & Rescue need rescuing

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
Shawn Banet poses with some of the Search and Rescue equipment which is now housed at the Ramsey County shop. They have equipment housed all over town since they had to vacate the former Otter Tail plant near the city’s recycling center.

For 34 years the volunteers that make up the Lake Region Search and Rescue team have been responding to accidents, saving lives and helping wherever they are needed all around this part of North Dakota.

Trained divers make up half of this team and their services are called on whenever an accident puts someone underwater. Their experience has taught them there is the “golden hour” of survival. That’s why it is vital to have a Search and Rescue team so near. If the area had to depend on teams from the nearest communities that have teams, Jamestown or Grand Forks, it might cut down on survival rates.

Their calls come from Ramsey County, Benson County, Eddy County, Towner County, Nelson County and the Spirit Lake Nation. They are part of a larger area’s regional response team, too, whenever and wherever they are called.

The greatest percentage of the calls to Search and Rescue are to assist in accidents, many in the lakes and sloughs of the region, but traffic accidents, as well.

Now they have a need that the communities they have served so faithfully can help provide.

The Lake Region Search and Rescue needs a home.

They have been housed by the city of Devils Lake in the former Otter Tail building and steam heat plant on the hill near the city’s recycling center. They’ve been there for 14 years  rent free but in the past months that has come to an end. They have had to find new places all around the city to store their equipment temporarily because the roof of the portion of the city’s building they occupied is caving in, the building determined to be structurally unsafe.

The twelve unpaid volunteers of the Lake Region Search and Rescue team have a dream,

“We need to build a building that will house all our equipment and serve our needs into the future,” Ramsey County Sheriff Steve Nelson said. Nelson in his role as sheriff oversees the team for the county.

An appeal for funding has gone out to the communities that Search and Rescue have served for help in raising the estimated $400,000 to build what they need.

“We are looking for help from the people of the communities we serve,” Shawn Banet said. He is president of the organization.

In the months ahead they will be visiting with the county commissions and tribal authorities seeking financial help for the project.

“But the donations don’t have to be all cash,” Banet said. “Maybe someone has a nice piece of land they would be able to donate, or a contractor willing to donate materials or labor to help build what we need.”

There are lots of ways to help Search and Rescue meet their goal.

The organization has operated all these years on donations and fundraisers alone. Their two biggest annual fundraisers, you may recall, are the “When will the car fall through the ice?” and the big Magic Show.

Other fundraisers help out, too, like the Lunacy Motorcycle Club weekend and during the Rock’n the Cove a booth selling water and mementos is donating to the cause.

Individuals have stepped up to help out, as well, like Lee Gessner who recently gave a donation and went on the radio challenging others to match his donation.

For over 30 years they have received no funding from any of the counties they served operating only on the donations received. Now they are coming to those communities and asking for their help.

Banet said they had already visited with Ramsey County and said that went well. He said that he knows the people of the region appreciate their work and is certain they will help in any way they can.

Look for more stories ahead about this project as it moves forward and anyone wanting to contribute can do so through any of the Search and Rescue team members or the Sheriff’s office in the Law Enforcement Center.