Knox County Snowmobile Search and Rescue Makes First Call of the - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Knox County Snowmobile Search and Rescue Makes First Call of the Season

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Over the weekend the Knox County Sheriff's Department Snowmobile Search and Rescue Team was called out to respond to an emergency for the first time this season.

Team Director Pat Hennenfent said the number of calls the team responds to varies year to year, often dependent on the weather – but typically ranging from two to ten emergencies each winter. 

The team is the only official volunteer snowmobile search and rescue team in the state of Illinois, according to Hennenfent. Covering not just Knox County, but the entire state of Illinois, the team said it could always use more members.

Currently the team has about thirty active members. Hennenfent said anyone who has a snowmobile and can make time for one or two monthly training sessions is encouraged to join the volunteer team.

All volunteers are on call 24/7 throughout the winter, ready to respond to calls of missing, lost or stranded persons in the harsh winter conditions. 

"We do it for the people," said Hennenfent. "I mean anyone who's been stuck out in the cold knows how terrifying that can be. I don't think there's any worse way to go than to freeze to death. And so we just decided it would be our job to help these people. We all love snowmobiling - we're crazy people who like to be in the cold and the snow - but we also like helping people out. This is one way we can help our community while we enjoy the sport we love."

Aside from rescuing people using their snowmobiles, the volunteers travel with a large supply of medical equipment, warm gear for EMTs to use, and other pieces of equipment provided by grants and money from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and licensing fee money from snowmobile registration.

The team is also expected to become a licensed first responder unit in January after completing the necessary paperwork and training.

All the snowmobilers on the team are also a part of the Prairie Drifters Snowmobile Club.

Team members say they encourage all other snowmobilers to always go out in pairs to avoid getting lost or stranded in the snow. And for those out in the winter weather in cars, they recommend always having an emergency kit filled with water, a flashlight, matches, a candle and a blanket.

Anyone interested in joining the team, and all other members of the public, are invited to attend the team's major training exercise on Sat. January 11 at Lake Storey in Galesburg.

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