Zion National Park's "Recycled" SAR Vehicle Saved Money and Can Help Save Lives

New SAR vehicle at Zion NP.

The "new" vehicle, named "SAR 1," replaces a vintage 1980s surplus military box van that was very near the end of its useful life. NPS photo.

It's already seen service as an ambulance in three other locations around the West. Now this mechanical workhorse has been "recycled" once again, and it will provide a much-needed primary response vehicle for search and rescue missions in Zion National Park.

The spectacular cliffs, canyons and rivers in Zion National Park are a smorgasbord of scenic delights and a magnet for hikers, climbers and other recreational pursuits. That same terrain results in some challenging search and rescue (SAR) missions, and those activities can require a lot of specialized equipment, including ropes, climbing hardware, litters and medical supplies.

In the aggregate, all that gear is bulky, heavy and expensive, and the availability of a vehicle dedicated to SAR missions can save a lot of time by having key items pre-loaded and ready to roll. Such specialized vehicles also make an emergency response more efficient—equipment can be properly stowed and transported in an organized manner, cutting down on "have you seen the ...?" All of those factors can help save lives

Zion has been using an old military surplus van to haul SAR gear, but it was long overdue for replacement. It's very difficult for such specialized vehicles to successfully compete for limited dollars in a park's budget, so the staff at Zion has found another solution. They "recycled" a vehicle.

According to the park,

Zion National Park has received a new addition to its fleet of emergency service vehicles – a 1997 International that was originally outfitted as an ambulance by E-One Corporation for the city of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

After use as an ambulance at Bandelier NM and Grand Canyon NP, its new home is at Zion NP in service as the primary response vehicle for search and rescue. This vehicle, christened “SAR 1,” replaces a vintage 1980s surplus military box van that was very near the end of its useful life.


Although Zion can be a busy place, the miles driven for emergency responses at that park will likely be a less than at Grand Canyon. That means a vehicle ready for retirement at the canyon can still have a few years left at Zion—especially in view of the age of Zion's previous model!

SAR 1 will be used to transport all the diverse equipment used by the Zion SAR program for technical rescues, wheeled litter transports, and raft float-outs of injured canyoneers from the Zion Narrows. The interior of the patient compartment has been modified with a sliding tray with custom welded shelving which allows for storage of heavy ropes with minimal lifting required for their retrieval.

While the situation at Zion—and plenty of other parks—would have justified the purchase of a new vehicle, here's a good example of "your tax dollars at work" to meet a need for at least a few more years.