Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Regarding dangerous subjects, I think that's just a risk you take. If the authorities have reason to believe that the person may be dangerous, either they won't call out civilian volunteers or they'll institute other safety procedures (usually the former, from what I know...I've only heard of the latter once, and then it was actually a cadaver search where there was just a very remote possibility that a dangerous person might still be in the area, so each team was accompanied by police, but I don't have the experience some people here do so I may be wrong!).
You will almost certainly not be permitted to carry a gun on a search. Our state requires a knife as part of your pack equipment, but we're talking like pocket knife--not something you'd want to plan on using for defense.
I guess I just never really worried about it, any more than I worry about stumbling across some pot growers or bumping into a wandering crazy in the throes of meth psychosis while I'm hiking, both of which have actually happened to me (well, with the marijuana I didn't find the growers, I found the patch and got the heck out of there!). I've been on searches for drug addicts and for people with known mental illnesses which aren't under control, and while there's always the potential for erratic or violent behavior, well...some panicked lost hiker with a gun might shoot you because they hear you in the brush and think you're a bear, too. Random intentional violence is pretty rare even among the mentally ill--even in the example cited in the OP, you can't say for sure that the searchers were in danger if his psychosis was manifesting in such a specific way (although I don't blame them for being freaked out, because there's no indication they weren't in danger either).
Actually, one of the big debates I hear out west is whether to put "search dog" notifiers on the dogs because of the fear that marijuana growers in the mountains will think they're drug dogs and shoot them. I'm not sure whether or not that's actually happened, but it's something that's debated occasionally. There's a surprising amount of pot grown back there, though a lot is just tended by nonviolent hippies--but you never know.
Personally, with regards to my own safety, I'm more concerned about falls or other injuries in the wilderness. On my last search I slipped and twisted my ankle quite painfully, and we were in a remote area where it would have been extremely difficult to rescue me from if I couldn't walk out. As I hiked out on my sore ankle, I couldn't help but think about how nasty it would be if I'd broken it or seriously sprained it. And on another search recently, an experienced searcher had to be hospitalized after a fall which apparently was totally unexpected (as in, he wasn't doing anything reckless or ill-advised).
The rowdy dogs:
Hector-2 y/o GSD (mix?) rescue
Scooter-12 y/o ACD/Border Collie mix
Bandit-8 y/o ACD
Wooby-14 y/o ACD
Abutiu "Abi"-ACD puppy and hopeful future SAR dog!
Last edited by RowdyDogs; 12-13-2012 at 10:40 PM.