The Roundup -

Badlands Search And Rescue Poised to Save Lives in McKenzie County


(L to R) Matthew Jensen, Stacey Baker, Travis Bateman, Lloyd Clock, Wesley Kindel, and RossNorby are just a few of the fifteen members of Badlands Search and Rescue (photo submitted).

In October 2018, an organization was born that could change the McKenzie County area disaster response forever. Fifteen courageous men and women banded together to create Badlands Search and Rescue, a volunteer SAR team serving Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana.

This new team is hoping to fill a large need in the area. According to former McKenzie County sheriff deputy, Travis Bateman, the nearest full-service SAR team is in Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City is almost 300 miles and over four hours away. There are other assets that can assist in SAR closer, such as boats, dive teams, SAR dogs, and technical teams in Williston and Dickinson but even the relatively short 50 miles between Williston and Watford City leaves plenty of space for severe weather or multiple incidents to interfere with a team's journey to a site and severely lengthen travel time to the McKenzie County area. Travis said, " The void here for a stand-alone, self-sufficient SAR team is apparent as the population grows, more back country activity occurs, and natural disasters happen more and more often." Badlands Search and Rescue seeks to fill that void by being based centrally, in Watford City, and available regionally over many counties. They are also willing to assist any and all public safety agencies at their request and be available to educate youth and outdoors enthusiasts in back country first aid, survival, and safety.

The current members are all highly trained to conduct responses and activities that are often drawn out over three hours or longer and require specific and dedicated assets to missions such as missing people, lost hunters/fishermen/hikers/mountain bikers; boating incidents, drownings, falls from cliffs, personal aircraft crash, jet ski crash, technical/high-angle rescues in Badlands terrain, and ATV and off-road vehicle incidents. The main challenges locally are the terrain and the availability of capable, trained personnel making them different from the typical fire, rescue or EMS responses that typically don't last beyond two to three hours and require an additional skillset only attained from SAR training. Badlands SAR is a member of the National Association for Search & Rescue. Their training and certifications for SAR are attained through courses provided by the association. The medical training certifications BSAR attain through North Dakota EMS Association. They are currently pursuing additional rescue, rope, extrication training through the North Dakota Firefighters Association, and State of North Dakota.

They are an all-volunteer organization, funded by donations, grants, fundraising, and individual member investments and as of June 25, 2019 they were approved for 501C3 nonprofit status so now charitable donors can receive a tax cut. They are currently in need of snow/winter weather equipment to aid in SAR calls as well as augment EMS when ambulances are incapable of traversing due to blizzards or heavy snow events. They are also seeking a base location for the team to store response vehicles, gear, have training and meetings.

Phenomenal assistance has already been provided in starting the team by the McKenzie County Emergency Manager and North Dakota Department of Emergency Services SAR Coordinator and State Radio. They received several donations, including gear and funds.

Currently, BSAR only has fifteen members and has yet to start recruiting but as the organization develops they plan to start recruiting as early as fall, 2019. Those interested in joining the team when recruitment opens can email BSAR to get information on the requirements of membership.

Badlands SAR's responses are entirely free. They stand by the national approach that they will not charge for their services but will gladly accept donations in order to continue to provide help to others that find themselves in duress. The only billing that may come from an incident would be from air and/or ground ambulance services if they transport a patient, hospital if they treat a patient, or law enforcement if they choose to charge for a criminal violation or for the search efforts from their department. People and companies wishing to donate funds or equipment can contact Badlands SAR at http://[email protected] or visit and message their Facebook page (Badlands Search & Rescue Group). Also, if anyone knows of or has a suitable location in the Watford City area, the team can use please email BSAR. Donors will be informed of exactly what their contributions to the team were used for. Travis said, "It's important for them to know how they are aiding us."


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