Confronting misperceptions about force requirements

Local data shows that mission participants have nearly the same chance of being "turned around" regardless of how early or late they leave for a mission (see chart: "Missions by Duration in King County for 2004").

Here’s a hypothetical story: Susan and John are roommates. Susan loves search and rescue and routinely leaves immediately upon being paged.

John loves search and rescue as well, but has grown disenfranchised by what he sees as too high a percentage of missions being "turned around". As a result, John has adopted a personal policy to wait one hour after being paged before responding to any mission, thus separating the wheat from the chaff.

So who gets turned around before reaching base camp more often, Susan or John? Does John’s policy really help him avoid being turned around? Lets look at the data.

Based on more than 100 search and rescue missions handled by King County in 2004: if both John and Susan take one hour to reach the average mission, Susan stands a 7% chance of being turned around before reaching base camp. John, by contrast, leaving one hour later has a nearly identical 6% chance of the same.

Missions by Duration in King County for 2004

So why is it John’s perception that so many missions each year result in a turn around? Well, John’s absolutely correct, in fact 100% of the missions King County responds to are eventually turned around. The problem isn’t the number of missions resulting in a turn around, but John’s understanding of what a turn around is. A "turn around", as the term is most commonly used, simply means that a mission has transitioned from increasing its total force, to maintaining or reducing its current force. All missions turn around, just as all missions have a beginning and end.

More precisely, John’s perception was that a significant number of missions were "turned around" within the first hour that he would be travelling to base camp. Here John is simply incorrect, only 7% of all missions are turned around within the first hour which means 93% of all missions are still going strong by the time John would arrive.

Those 93% of missions need John’s help, and they need your help as well. If, like John, you’ve been under the misperception that a high percentage of missions end early, here’s your wake up call. Keep your mind, body, and gear at the ready, and respond as soon as you receive the page.

Remember, if you won’t help, how can you expect others to help?