The Challenge of Handling Emergencies at the Grand Canyon

The National Park Service Employees who deal with emergencies have to be ready for anything, including firefighting, emergency medical services, and search and rescue operations. This is particularly challenging in a very large area, such as the Grand Canyon National Park, which covers over one million acres.

The park receives over 5 million visitors each year, and the visitors are bound to have their share of accidents and mishaps. The emergency team ends up having to respond to over 1,200 incidents each year. Many visitors who are taking Grand Canyon tours, or seeing Grand Canyon attractions, underestimate the heat of the Arizona sun and suffer from heat stroke.

For those who go in for some Grand Canyon hiking, there is ample opportunity to pick up scrapes, sprains, and bruises along the way. The trek up from the canyon floor, in particular, is much harder than many people expect, especially with the steep incline at such a high elevation.

In addition, there are the normal unexpected health emergencies or car accidents that people have wherever they are. Sometimes there are also natural threats, such as heavy storms, wildfires, or an attack by a wild animal. Whatever may come up, it is the park emergency team that must come up with some way to deal with it, and do so quickly.

One of the chief challenges for the emergency team is simply getting to people who need them. The Grand Canyon is far from any major city, and the team must use what they have, and make sure they have what they need. This includes an ambulance, but also includes mules and a helicopter for those more tricky or difficult locations.

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Much of the park is off-road, particularly the popular trail down to the canyon floor. So the mules and helicopter actually do get a fair bit of use. When someone with an emergency is at the bottom of the canyon, the helicopter needs to be started up, and the crew will head off to care for the person. For those who need help along the trail, the only effective way to get them out may be by mule. Such are the challenges of handling emergencies in a large National Park.