New Hampshire Outdoor Council

New Hampshire Search and Rescue Extraordinary Service Award

An Award to honor individuals who have given Extraordinary Service to Backcountry Search and Rescue in New Hampshire given by the New Hampshire Outdoor Council

The untimely death of Nancy Lyon, long-time volunteer for New England K-9 and a prominent figure in backcountry search and rescue in New Hampshire, has led the New Hampshire Search and Rescue community to create a special award to honor individuals who have contributed greatly to the cause of Search and Rescue (SAR) in the Granite State.

The nature of the New Hampshire Outdoor Council (NHOC) as a statewide organization which supports search and rescue operations (through grants for training and equipment), and which supports public education in backcountry safety (such as through grants for the hikeSafe program) has led the NHOC to serve as the organization which bestows this award.

Discussion among the SAR community and within the NHOC has led to the following observations related to this award and the service which it recognizes:

While participants in backcountry SAR tend to be self-effacing and not ones to seek out special recognition, there are individuals who, over the span of many years, have given greatly of their time and talent to further public safety though SAR activity and education. Such individuals merit special thanks from their community. Furthermore, highlighting such remarkable service may be of general benefit insofar as such recognition may inspire others to also serve. The award may also heighten a focus on outdoor safety, may lead to more financial support for SAR and related educational efforts, and may promote further participation in SAR service.

Following the general tendency of such individuals to work hard to serve others, without interest in personal recognition, the award will not be formally named for any one individual.

Extraordinary service is just that it is not common, and is typically given over a period of time. As a rough rule of thumb, perhaps a decade of regular service might be seen as a minimum to merit such an award. To some extent, such an award might be seen as a "lifetime service" award (though ideally it will not be given posthumously). Typically, the award will not be given more than once a year, and indeed, it should not be expected that such an award will be given each year.

The characterization of individuals eligible for the award is inclusive of many categories; it is be open to anyone who has served the citizens of and visitors to the Granite State in backcountry search and rescue. It encompasses the region "from Coos to the Sea." While typically one might expect it to be given to members of SAR teams, unusual circumstances may indicate that non-members have earned such recognition. Any individuals participating in or supporting backcountry search and rescue (including P (Preventive) SAR backcountry safety education) including volunteers, and paid personnel of local, state or federal agencies are eligible.

Award Criteria

More important than affiliation of any sort is the nature, character, and depth of an individual's service. In this area, we can look to the example of Nancy Lyon, who served to inspire this discussion.

Characteristics that earn consideration for this award are those that create an ongoing standard of excellence within the SAR community, and include:

Dedication: A personal commitment to the public service of search and rescue and safety education. Typically, such dedication is be characterized by lengthy service, at least ten years. (From time to time, there may be regrettable instances when an individual who might not have given lengthy service is considered for such an award posthumously due to giving the ultimate sacrifice in public service.)

Professionalism: Some have called capable volunteers "unpaid professionals." Whether the candidate is paid or unpaid, sought-after traits are a recognition of the technical aspects of SAR, the evolution of SAR techniques and approaches, a desire to learn more and to improve one's capability, encouragement of others to do the same, and a positive demeanor.

Teamwork: A recognition, demonstrated through actions, that the success of SAR activity depends on all participants working well together not just within a team, but among teams, among varied groups (paid and unpaid), and across any jurisdictional boundaries.

Compassion: A recognition that SAR is not merely a technical exercise, but an endeavor which seeks to help people in need, including subjects and their families and friends.

Leadership: Leadership does not demand formal authority or designation -- anyone involved in SAR should lead, as appropriate, by example in their particular position. Leadership is not just exercised by individuals in charge, but by all who set a team spirit and provide an example for others to follow.

Individuals who have displayed these traits may be considered for this award.

Note that this is not a "Hero Award." We recognize the quiet heroism - the sacrifice, dedication, and even the acceptance of risk - given by all participants in SAR activities. This does not mean that we will ignore remarkable acts of heroism, but we recognize that there are other awards, on a state and national basis, offered to those whose service is more dramatic and meets the generally accepted definition of heroism.

Award Process

Any individual may nominate a candidate (except for himself or herself) for the award. Nomination will take the form of a detailed letter outlining how the candidate meets the criteria for the award and how the candidate has truly provided extraordinary service in backcountry search and rescue in New Hampshire. Typically, such nominations will come from SAR team members or public safety professionals, but suggestions from the general public are also accepted. Additional letters of support, or other relevant supporting material, will strengthen the candidate's case. Letters should be sent to the NHOC Board of Directors, P.O. Box 157, Kearsarge NH 03847. Electronic submissions can be sent to nhocsecretary@nhoutdoorcouncil.org. Nominators may be contacted by the NHOC Board for further information about the candidate. Given the typical March award date, nominations should be sent by November 30 each year for board consideration.

Due to the sensitive, personal nature of the award deliberations, the consideration process within the NHOC will be considered secret. Past recipients of the award may be contacted for their insights, on a confidential basis. NHOC Board members should not be pressed for information about the deliberations. Because there is a very high bar for this award, nominators should not be unduly disappointed if a candidate is not given the award. Repeat nominations of a candidate can be offered at a future time.

The award will be announced at a public function, such as the March "Winter Gathering" of the White Mountains SAR community. There will be a physical token of the award, such as a photograph with suitable inscription, given to the recipient. There will also be public notice of the award given via a press release, etc. There will also be a permanent plaque listing award recipients at New Hampshire Fish and Game Department headquarters in Concord.

New Hampshire Outdoor Council
PO Box 157
Kearsarge, NH 03847

Please feel free to contact NHOC with any questions or concerns.

Support/Contact New Hampshire Outdoor Council
PO Box 157
Kearsarge, NH 03847-0157
nhocsecretary at nhoutdoorcouncil dot org