Glenn Bock - “Injuries Inconsistent with Life”
While engineer Glenn Bock’s work at Goddard involves trying to break equipment through rigorous testing, his focus outside Goddard is finding people–dead or alive. Bock, an avid rock climber and mountaineer, became involved with search and rescue in 1992 when he became a training advisor for the Maryland Search and Rescue, a junior search and rescue team which trains high school kids to help find other missing children. He spent a lot of time preparing the kids for finding dead bodies, which involved talking with the kids and their parents and lots of waivers. Bock taught them basic survival, land navigation, compass and map reading, and first aid including CPR.
“Search and rescue is basically the same as a first responder but without as much gear,” says Bock. “The majority of what search and rescue does is find clues. It’s tracking and clue awareness.” Clues include candy wrappers, foot prints, broken brush, or overturned earth. “For example, the wetter the leaves, the more recently the person walked through there,” he explains.
According to Bock, the searchers have to be treated differently for a body recovery as opposed to a live person recovery. “If you tell people it’s a body recovery, many will walk away thinking there is nothing they can do. But if you tell people you are helping to save a living person, they will stay and help. Then again, they’re screaming and that’s a whole different world,” explains Bock. One psychological technique he learned is that in an emergency, he keeps people focused on doing something helpful. For example, a line search, which is portrayed in many movies as people in a line walking forward together, is used when the search is going so badly they don’t have any other clues.
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Glenn Bock poses in some of his search and rescue gear used for climbing. Credit: G. Bock
Bock is certified in search and rescue techniques, rope rescue techniques and Red Cross first aid. Because the group uses search and rescue dogs, all participants must learn pet first aid including CPR, rescue breathing and making improvised muzzles. “The most common injuries to pets and our search and rescue dogs are cuts on the paws and also breathing difficulties from pesticide exposure while tracking,” says Bock.
Bock assisted with the recovery of four bodies over the next eight years, one of whom was a pilot who crashed and burned in bad weather. At the time, Bock was the field team leader for a large group of high school students, only some of whom were his, with just two other adults. He occupied the kids by asking them to do a line search while he stayed in front looking for clues. Once he found a clue indicative of a crash site, he sent the kids home with one adult while he and the remaining adult proceeded to the crash site. “The pilot’s body was found in five pieces which we had to document using stick figures. Normally you administer CPR until the person revives or you pass out. In this case, the medical term explaining why we did not apply CPR is ‘injuries inconsistent with life,’” says Bock. The deceased cannot be left unattended, so they remained with the dead pilot for eight hours until the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board representatives arrived.
Another memorable case during the late 1990s involved a missing child who got scared and hid. Even an infrared helicopter could not find the small child. “Searching sometimes requires a lot of imagination,” says Bock. “Finally, a policeman took the child’s dog for a walk, got the dog to bark and the kid found his barking dog.”
After a three year break, in 2005, he became involved with the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), which trains people to do such things as turn off gas, water and electricity in the event of a disaster. Through CERT, Bock discovered the Delmarva Search and Rescue Group (DMVSAR) and became a sustaining member. “I help them with training and provide technical support,” explains Bock. DMVSAR is an adult-only group. Bock teaches them basic survival tips including land navigation, GPS and radio communication. He is preparing a textbook for them as well.
What keeps him motivated? “I still like teaching people stuff, I like the woods. I like helping people. Even if you find a deceased person, you have an end to their story and closure for their family,” he says.
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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.