For Woman, Giving Back Drives Dedication to Search and Rescue

The Malibu Search and Rescue Team, which is comprised of 30 volunteers, including reserve deputies, nurses and other civilians, work with local firefighters and deputies to keep local roadways and trails safe.

It's not about the money, with compensation of $1 a year. It's not even about the adventure of scaling cliffs, rappelling out of helicopters and rescuing hikers, although that's part of it.

"Working with the team, the people that I work with, they are just amazing people. You've got to give back a little," said Rocky Morton of Thousand Oaks of her work with Malibu Search and Rescue.

Morton, 62, reflected on her two decades of work with the team during a vehicle-over-the-side training scenario on Mulholland Highway east of Las Virgenes Road Sunday between Malibu and Calabasas.

"I'm one of the luckiest people on earth to be able to do something nice for somebody else. Just picture yourself down there," Morton said, pointing to the canyon below," and thinking 'Oh my God is somebody going to come and get me?' And they see there is someone there to help them. I haven't been in that situation. I can only imagine what it would be like."

Growing up with all brothers, Morton said she is comfortable being around the male dominated team.

"I like this. It's outdoors. It's adventuresome. It's challenging. It's physical," she said.

Morton, a reserve deputy sheriff and member of Malibu Search and Rescue (SAR), is one of four women on the 30-member team, which includes reserve deputies, nurses and other civilians.

The team works with Los Angeles County firefighters, who are often the first to arrive on the scene of a crash or lost hiker, calling on members of Malibu SAR when their skills or specialized equipment are needed.

Morton, whose husband Lon Morton owns Morton Capital Management in Calabasas, is also a pediatric nurse practitioner, a skill that comes in handy when responding with her team to over the side crashes and lost and injured hikers in the Santa Monica Mountains.

During Sunday's training scenario, Morton was the first down to provide medical aid to a woman with mock injuries on the sloped cliff.

"My deal is when I got there, I put out a rope immediately so I could grab the medical pack and rappel down. The rest of the team stood top side and they were available to bring down whatever I felt I needed," Morton said.

The team has already logged 99 rescues this year, compared to 128 total call-outs in 2011, according to David Katz, the public information officer for Malibu SAR.

Katz has been posting the team's rescues on Facebook and Twitter over the past several weeks, leading to an increase in visibility for the group, which is based out of the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff's Station.

The team relies on volunteers to remain fully staffed, he said. The team has seen a recent uptick in applicants -- nine in the past few weeks -- but , Katz said.

The team may be one of the busiest in Los Angeles County, according to L.A. County Sheriff's Reserve Commander Kevin Ryan, who is has been a member of Malibu SAR for more than 30 years.

Just last week, the team was training in the same spot on Mulholland Highway and and a woman's body nearby. After training on Sunday in high temperatures, the team was immediately called out to respond to a lost hiker near Escondido Falls.

Morton said that she does not make it to all the calls, especially since she's been devoting more of her time to her five grandsons. Other team members, who live all around the area from Malibu to Calabasas, respond when they are available.

"I do my best. Sometimes the calls are in my backyard," Morton said.

Learn more about Malibu Search and Rescue at www.malibusar.org.

Emma MacLaren James September 10, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Rocky Morton and Malibu SAR team- Thanks so much for providing this valuable service for our community. Jessica please can we have more stories like this about local people that volunteer their own time to make a difference for others? It was nice to wake up on a Monday morning and read such an inspirational profile on Patch.
Jessica E. Davis September 10, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Thanks Emma! I am planning on it. Feel free to send story ideas my way.
Jessica, on behalf of Malibu SAR, thank you for recognizing someone who truly deserves it. Rocky talks the talk and walks the walk. She often runs circles around team members half her age and her dedication and devotion to her teammates and the community is unsurpassed. Congrats Rocky!
A. Morton September 11, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Goooo Mom!
Pat Saslow September 16, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Rockette!!!! Love you!!! :)))


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