Search and Rescue Basics

Discussion in 'Other Skills' started by Panzer, May 2, 2012.

  1. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    I get asked allot about how to get into volunteer Search and Rescue and what is needed for equipment and skill set. The short answer is that anyone can do it as long as they have generally good health and a willingness to learn. Just like any activity it’s up to you how much time and money you want to commit. But to be an effective member of your team you will need to train in the basics. Your team to their standard will teach most, if not all of this info. There are nationally accredited organizations that will teach and certify as well.
    [​IMG]

    PMA - Positive Mental Attitude
    THE most important skill to have! Whiners, prima donnas, and egos need not apply.
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    Navigation
    Second most important skill to have. The ability to navigate with compass, plot points on a map, and set and read way points on a GPS are a big part of what volunteer SAR does. There are no road maps or directional signs in the woods.

    Search Tactics
    There are many ways to search for someone. Specific techniques and tactics is something you will need to know along with basic terminology.

    Tracking
    The basics of tracking and determining sign or clues is important and worth practicing.
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    Communications
    Radio communications is the lifeblood of an operation. The ability to operate a radio and communicate in a clear manner can be critical.
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    First Aid/CPR
    Most teams have EMT trained members that handle the life threatening stuff. But you will need to know basics to help yourself and your team members. You may also be required to stabilize a patient until medics arrive. The ability to recognize and treat shock, hypothermia, hyperthermia, sunstroke, dehydration, etc. are big ones to know.

    Ropes and Knots
    Working with ropes and knowing you knots is handy. Most teams have rigging specialist that will lead a rescue. Some teams do not do high angle rope rescue others do. If you are not comfortable with high angle then make that clear. My team only does low angle. So we only setup rope haul systems on the side of a hill to pull a rescue litter up to manageable area. Easy stuff compared to teams out west that do high angle rescue.
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    [​IMG]

    Basic Wilderness Survival Skills
    Something as a bushcrafter, hunter or backpacker we all practice. You might have to apply those tips and tricks to real situation. We tend to travel light so you have to be able to shelter over night with what’s in your daypack.
    [​IMG]

    Search Management
    The management and running of a search is very specialized and complex but knowing the basics will help even a ground pounder in understanding what they are doing during a mission.
    [​IMG]

    I hope this helps some folks with questions. And I hope other SAR members chime in and add their own perspective.

    Thanks for looking
     
  2. OutdoorEnvy

    OutdoorEnvy Guide

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    Very informative. Nice post buddy.
     
  3. WarDoggy

    WarDoggy Scout

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    Have links/info on the accreditation orgs? Been thinking about SAR a lot here recently.

    Thanks.

    Sent from my SCH-I400 using Tapatalk
     
  4. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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  5. cellis

    cellis Post less. Do more. Supporter Bushclass II

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    I also hope others chime in too as you may get overwhelmed..

    This is something I really think is so great. We see regularly, as in say once every week in the mountains in the summer, the helicopters flying overhead. We also see groups of 20-30+ 'tourist' hikers with only 1 or 2 guides doing very tough hikes once a month or so (not an exaggeration). Very scary stuff. In other words many of us are quite respectful of you guys.

    I will stop gushing and do one more question to you or any other SAR people.

    In a follow up to my question on your other thread, what about the cost? I have heard one of these operations can cost up to $3-5000 typically? Here and in Europe I believe, the lost person fronts the bill if they do not have insurance, and I have heard it is moving that way in the states. It is a major problem here and you read reports of people way out there who have finally reached cell phone signals but said 'please don't come get me I can't afford it.' You also see SAR insurance in the backs of any mountaineering magazine here. I guess the question is is who fronts the bill and do you get the people who don't want to be found because they can't afford it?

    Just curious, and I will stop the fanboy question stuff now I swear. :10: Have had more than one Apocalypse Now moment in the mountains with the Helicopters not more than 50m above and it makes me want to understand it (and help if I possibly could!).
     
  6. Mrwhitetailfanatic

    Mrwhitetailfanatic Banned Member Banned

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    Very cool post man. I was wondering this myself. I think it would be great to offer services to a cause like this. You get to use your skill set to help others. And it gives you more time to practice those skills. It looks like a win win. On average how many times do you guys actually have to find someone a year?
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2012
  7. One Legged Josh

    One Legged Josh Dirt Merchant Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Thanks for the post. Keep the info coming. SOME of us are still willing to learn "the art of tracking". I will never be SAR, but it may come in handy someday...I camp with old guys sometimes, and they might break a hip.:9:
     
  8. delkancott

    delkancott Supporter Supporter

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    Great post! Thank you.
     
  9. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    That changes from state to state. Some parks and states charge for the rescue. Thanks
     
  10. Prof

    Prof Guide Bushclass II

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    This a cool thread. It is also great that guys are training to do this using their bushcrafting and medical skills to help others.
     
  11. rdec

    rdec Guide

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    In NY stste the training is conducted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rangers and SAR is organized in regional teams. Although anyone can volunteer during large scale searches the advantage of being a card-carrying volunteer is that you are carried as an unpaid employee of DEC and are carried under their workman's compensation policy. If you are injured or killed during an organized search you can be compensated. I served in the guard with several administrative law judges who handle, among other things, workman's comp. cases. In general, compensation is based on pay rate but for the unpaid, you get the max. This also applies to volunteer fire departments, volunteer police reserves and such. I don't know if other states handle it this way, but it seems sensible.

    Injury or death while part of a SAR team is not at all common. First, the people involved are usually very experienced outdoorsmen and women. Also, the rangers know how to organize the search and even though you sometimes get into some pretty god-awful areas have the gear and skill to handle it safely. The 'Dacks combine great beauty with areas of great hazard and remarkable shifts in weather. People don't get lost strolling down the boardwalk at high noon on a summer day so things happen.
     
  12. J

    J Bushwhacker Bushclass I

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    Good thread Panzer...
     
  13. santaman2000

    santaman2000 Guide

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    I might add there are several organizetions that you could chose from to become involved. Of course the ones already mentioned (various state organizations and your local sheriff's office volunteer SAR teams) but also don't forget that every state has a Civil Air Patrol wing and many states have a Coast Guard Auxilliary unit. NO, you do not have to flt or have a boat to join or participate. Both organizations are voluteer orgs that need ground based personel of all ages as well (although the CGA will try to get you onto one of the org's boats if you're willing) Both org's will train you.
     
  14. Capt. Redbush

    Capt. Redbush Guide Bushclass I

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    Very awesome information and excellent thread. I have wanted to be involved with SAR, but to my knowledge, there's no such entity here in my AO. Lots of wilderness, but not a lot of 'tourists' or people getting lost, I suppose. Guess that's a good thing though...
     
  15. donk

    donk Guide Bushclass I

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    Good information Buddy. Thanks for all you do,
    Donk.
     
  16. kinzei

    kinzei Scout

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    Great post, and very informative. We covered the basics of SAR in the EMS operations class that was required for the paramedic program I went through.
     
  17. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    very true! I have never worked with CAP here. In Ohio the primarily work on downed aircraft searches.
     
  18. Longbeard

    Longbeard on the PCT Bushclass III

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    Quality post Panzer, you're the man.
     
  19. Lerch

    Lerch Bushmaster Bushclass I

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    Good stuff Panzer. It should be noted that mentioning your experiences in sasquatch hunting at your first class is not a good idea. ;)
     
  20. Yellow Lab

    Yellow Lab Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    This is my reasoning also. You never know where you may be. Knowledge like this can mean life or death. Good job Panzer!
     
  21. Horned Toad

    Horned Toad Guest

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    So Panzer lists what is probably the bare minimum required to be effective in SAR and you target fixate on one. If SAR was a full time paid job you would be hard pressed to keep a full team trained up in all the subjects and be current in certifications. The fact that people volunteer to try and do all this in their spare time is worthy of applause. I can see where it would be a full time job away from work with no pay. I may disagree with a choice of terminology but I don’t disagree with the value of tracking.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2012
  22. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    Part II

    Why Volunteer SAR? Why is it needed? I have been asked this question as well. Most people believe that the state /LEO/Fire are equipped to handle a lost person incident in rural areas. And in some states they are, but there is a gap in services. Most LE and Fire are trained for very specific forms of search and rescue operations; urban, building collapse, runaway teen, felon search, etc. Not many academies are teaching wilderness search as a skill set. To bridge that gap volunteer teams have cropped up all across the country. Some are under the direction and funding of the state, DNR, Sherriff’s Department or even Fire Rescue. Some are totally independent and seeking training and funding on their own dime. In the end, the goal is the same - find the missing person

    The subject of a search can be anyone. Typical cases are lost hiker, overdue hunter, and elderly with alzheimers or dementia, child wandering away from campground or suicidal subject evading police. SAR teams train in very specific techniques to help LE locate these folks. In no way is volunteer SAR a replacement for LE or Fire! The groups work in conjunction with each other, one compliments the other. Our team goes to great lengths to build relationships with these agencies. We show that we are a viable and trusted resource. Someone they can call and not worry about us making them look like fools.

    Other special types of SAR:

    Evidence Handling & Recovery
    If you screw this up you will be called into court to testify. It’s important to know how to handle evidence (or not handle it at all), understand the chain of custody and properly document evidence. This is not CSI! We train with state crime labs and local police to learn how to properly find, report and document evidence.
    [​IMG]

    K9
    Some folks go into SAR to become dog handlers. This is a very specialized training and takes years of development. There are great dog handlers and poor ones. But the dogs are usually awesome! ☺ enough said.
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    Mounted SAR
    Horses and riders can be an effective tool in SAR. I am still learning more about this, so I won’t comment. But I have read that horses have the same smelling capability of a dog and can be scent trained. Also because of their height they have great field of vision.
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    Cave Rescue
    I took a class in it. I don’t want to do it again ☹ Cave rescue is highly technical and takes a special breed of person to do it. Also being small helps. :)
    [​IMG]
     
  23. Shorty

    Shorty Scout

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    I will just add a quick note on TRACKING. I am a member of 2 SAR groups - one is a broad SAR organization, similar to Panzer's RACE (I am on SMRG Panzer - we work with you guys a lot); the other is a professional Tracking unit (APTG). We do a lot of LE searches for suspects and also train SpecOps...it is MUCH more specialized tracker training than what you get in general SAR teams. It is also where i focus most of my efforts, and i have come to the following conclusion:

    most SAR teams will provide a general overview training to tracking...in Virginia, we have SARTI - other states have similar. These groups are fine, but they teach what we call "track-trap-tracking" - meaning find soil that easily picks up tracks - then run up to the next soil that holds tracks...ie., muddy areas separated by 100 yards of grass - most SAR will find the first track, then run up ahead to the next track trap and see if they can pick the trail back up.

    This can be very dangerous, and creates MUCH more sign in the area and possible contamination. Whereas teams focused solely on tracking can easily track step-by-step across any terrain and maintain continuity of sign so that you KNOW you are on the right sign line.

    Each unit has its role. in most SAR situations, trackers' main purpose is to identify direction of travel so as to narrow the prime search area. We generally work too slow to be able to track from the Point Last Seen (PLS) to finding the subject, but we can provide valuable intel along the way. LE searches are different - we can generally take more time as we are there to help build a case, not necessarily find a living person.

    Those interested in tracking should look to the more specialized units like APTG, rather than thinking you will get proper tracker training in a general SAR unit - there are much bigger fish to fry with those teams, like medical, semi-tech, litter handling, search management, etc.

    Just my 2 cents
     
  24. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    SMRG!!!! Good to see you here. Small world.

    You are right on the money with tracking and SAR. It's unfortunate how little tracking we get to do. More often then not a dog is sent ahead to do the work and we are left in a support role.
     
  25. turkeytracks

    turkeytracks Scout Bushclass I

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    Is that because dogs, given their noses, are better at it than a trained person?
    Just to be clear, serious question.
     
  26. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    It's a good question. In varies from state to state. But in Ohio, SAR has been traditionally trusted to dog teams. Dog teams have developed a good relationship with the Sheriff's department and local LEO. They need a SAR resource for a missing kid and a K9 team is called first. Ground teams like mine have been working to get our resource involved earlier and have us part of Search Management. We also have partner with K9 teams so that when a search mission is happening multiple types of resources are being used, not just one. This increase the likely hood of finding the subject in my opinion. More weapons in your arsenal.

    K9's are awesome and have way better noses then humans. They can distinguish one person from another or human remains vs. dead animal (depends on how they are trained). But like all resources they have to be used wisely.
     
  27. turkeytracks

    turkeytracks Scout Bushclass I

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    Good info. Thanks for these SAR threads.
     
  28. Shorty

    Shorty Scout

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    Agreed. I have seen times where the dogs were right on the money but I have also seen times where dog teams were way off. It IS how the resources are used that makes the difference...it also matters how GOOD the resources are - a bad dog team will be better than a bad tracking team. But I have seen good tracker teams out-hunt the dog teams before too! just depends. The best of all worlds is to use K9 units in conjunction with human tracker units...you can cover a LOT of ground quickly that way.

    Anyway, good thread Panzer! Always good to have more info on SAR on this forum!
     
  29. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    Shorty you and I need to chat. PM incoming brother.
     
  30. EagleRiverDee

    EagleRiverDee Guide

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    Thanks for the posts. S&R is something I would like to contribute to but right now don't have a job flexible enough to allow me to leave whenever and reading the local S&R's website they really need people who can commit to dropping what they're doing and going right now. I understand that, so my hope is to eventually have that type of job so that I can help people out. In the meantime I've been spending time reading up on wilderness first aid and SAR procedures and plan to take a Wilderness First Responder course so that when I am able to join up I'll have some skills already. I know they train but figure it can't hurt to prepare a little.
     
  31. scenter

    scenter Tracker

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    Nice post, that was a good intro to the basic skills needed for SAR.

    It takes both a good handler and an awesome dog to make a SAR dog team. K9 units should weed out any poor handlers or dogs that would rather be doing something else.

    There are several different disciplines that SAR dog teams may be trained for:

    Trailing
    Trailing dogs are worked on-leash. Before starting, a scent article belonging to the subject is presented to the dog. The dog will then attempt to follow the residual scent trail left by that particular person as they walked from the place last seen. Note that the scent trail may not coincide exactly with the footsteps, so trailing is different than tracking that follows footstep to footstep.

    Airscent
    Airscent dogs are worked off-leash. Usually they do not require a scent article; they are trained to range away from their handler and search for human scent in the air and then home in on the person generating the scent. When a person is located, the dog will communicate the news to their handler in some way and will make sure the handler finds them too.

    Cadaver
    Cadaver dogs are trained to locate the scent of human remains. When remains are detected, they will indicate in some way where the source of the scent is strongest. Cadaver dog teams may further train to locate bodies underwater, usually from a boat. This can be difficult because the dog doesn't have the mobility to home in on the source of scent as it can on land. So the handler needs to read their dog's behavior and direct the boat driver accordingly.

    Avalanche
    Avalanche dogs are trained to locate people that have been buried in snow, and will help dig them out.

    Disaster
    Disaster dogs are trained to work on rubble piles such as from building collapses. The handler may not be able to go where their dog does, so there is a lot of emphasis placed on training agility and directional signals. FEMA task forces train these dogs teams to be deployed on disaster missions.
     
  32. MedicineMan68

    MedicineMan68 Scout

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    Thank you, Sir! Very informative!
     
  33. Pappy Frank

    Pappy Frank Supporter Supporter

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    I spent several years in SAR myself and loved it. I was a rescue repeller and served as the first president in our organization as well as training officer for several years. I surely enjoyed SAR.

    There are a lot of positions in SAR other than being on the field teams. A lot of logistics and support goes into a search. My point is this, even if you are not able to serve on a field team actually doing the search or rescue, there are a lot of things that need doing. Assisting teams on R&R, driving, radio operations, or maybe just being a gopher. We had people who were handicapped helping with support activities. We had a man who could not walk a city block, but he could sit and opperate a radio for hours. Just one example.
    So if you want to be part of SAR, you can be. Just contact your local SAR and volunteer. They would love to have you.
     
  34. Buckskin

    Buckskin Guide

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    I received my SARTechIII certification about a year ago. I have taken the SARTechII course but I need to take the field trial for the Tech II. My team is actually a CERT crew but is trying to get more SAR trained resources.

    One cool thing is most of you on here have a great start on the minimum gear requirement. If you are a member of a disaster response team of some sort your equipment purchases and other expenses getting to a response might be tax deductible because it can be considered a volunteer or charitable expense.

    A couple of quick benefits to being SAR qualified:

    1. You have the opportunity to help someone in dire need.
    2. Occasionally you may be called out to assist LEO and aid in brining a fugitive to justice.
    3. You can get some more woods time and might be able to write off the cost.

    One other piece of training you might consider aside from NASAR and FEMA is getting your ham radio license. Having an understanding of how radio communications work can be a key element in the field.
     
  35. MiddleWolf

    MiddleWolf Guide

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    These are skills anyone can benefit from. Used to work with group in Los Angeles as the mountain areas around there can actually be more rugged then here in Portland. Used to train LAPD Explorer Scouts in grid search and rescue. Worked with the PD in outer areas when missing children were in need of help. Knowing how to extract an injured person "the right way" can be a life saver and during an actual bug out is priceless.
     
  36. rdec

    rdec Guide

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    In addition to the crews in the field most SAR operations have a headquarters with a guy who keeps track of the people involved, another controlling maps and information, another planning the search strategy and mechanics, another handling logistics (transportation, supplies, equipment) and finally someone who handles public information and contact. If this sounds like a military staff (S-1, S-2, S-3, S-4, and S-5 respectively) it is. The army found by long experience that this type of staff operation works and works well. Service veterans with staff experience fit right in, no matter age or physical condition, and retired folks usually have the time available to respond immediately.

    In addition to SAR many areas rely on volunteer fire departments and rescue squads. There are also the National Guards, the military reserves and, in those states that have them, state defense forces. Many employers are highly supportive of these activities, contributing money and encouraging employees to participate. Some will even continue to pay employees when they are away. The flip side are employers who either fire or won't hire those who volunteer. (Of course, when THEIR business or home is afire, or THEIR family has the emergency they expect the volunteers to show up.) It's a good idea to check with your employer before volunteering.
     
  37. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    This process is called the Incident Command system. It will work from a small incident with two people on staff to a huge disaster like a hurricane with 100's of people on staff. FEMA offers free online Incident Command courses. Our teams requires a bunch of them as a starting point to understand how an incident is ran. It's like a well oiled machine.
     
  38. rdec

    rdec Guide

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    Yeah, well the army calls it command and control and it works for a company up to million-man armies. Over the years I've served as a battery commander, an S-1, S-2, S-3 and helped out the S-4 from time to time. I'll look up the FEMA courses. I'm curious whether FEMA and the army agree on how things should be run.
     
  39. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    IC was developed by the California Fire Marshall (not sure which agency for sure) in response to wild fires. It has bee refined and applied to disaster management and SAR specifically. I imagine that it's very similar to military command structures.
     
  40. delkancott

    delkancott Supporter Supporter

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    Thanks again for the great post Panzer (& others). The timing of this is great. I actually have my first SAR training this Saturday for MA-based CMSART. Hopefully I can hang enough to not be a nuisance.
     
  41. Panzer

    Panzer Prepared Wanderer Supporter Bushclass I

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    You will do great! Keep an open mind and try to learn as much as possible. And have fun!
     
  42. Missouri Rick

    Missouri Rick Tracker

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    Great post. I've thought about SAR before...I'll have to check it out once I get moved back to Missouri.
     
  43. santaman2000

    santaman2000 Guide

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    If you (or anyone you know) has an amateur radio license they can especially use them.
     
  44. EdD270

    EdD270 Guide Bushclass I

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    I've had some SAR training incidental to EMT and CERT training.
    Here in AZ, and most other places I've lived, there is a small added charge tacked on to hunting and fishing licenses and game tags, usually less than a dollar, that is used to cover the costs of SAR for lost folks.
    Also, here, and many other places, it is illegal for an employer to fire someone simply because they volunteer for SAR or similar public-service groups. It's true that some employers refuse to hire volunteers, if they know they do volunteer work.
     
  45. roverman

    roverman Tracker

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    Hi Panzer, I might have met you at WVSAREX. I'm with MARG out of Morgantown. Small world!
     
  46. pgeduc8

    pgeduc8 Tracker Bushclass I

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    When hubby was a K-9 officer, he wanted to get into SAR with his dog, he said he could not because his dog was trained in bite work and when locating someone he could not risk the dog not realizing it wasn't a suspect and becoming more assertive on the find. But he talks about wanting to get a new dog, as his "partner" dies a couple years ago. And perhaps doing some SAR work again in a few years, health permitting.
     
  47. Boy Scout

    Boy Scout Scout

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    I'm a member of our Urban Search And Rescue team here in Indianapolis. I'm also one of the city's Community Emergnecy Response Team (CERT) instructors. I work mostly in the city teaching disaster response and city-style missing persons, but have helped on a few wooded area missing persons and rescues. SAR can be a fairly hard nugget to crack, to get on one of the teams in your AO. Most teams are made up of police, fire, emergency management, DPW, etc., mixed with some volunteer search personnel, K-9 tacking teams and radio operators. For anyone who's starting off at square one, I'd suggest looking at your county's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP - every jurisdiction is required to have by .gov) and find out who's responsible for SAR functions (ESF-9) and contact those agencies about volunteering. In addition, I'd look for any available training in emergency response skills: CPR/AED/First Aid, Red Cross Emergency classes, USDHS/FEMA online training, and my personal favorite, CERT.

    See the links below for additional information.

    http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
    http://training.fema.gov/IS/
    http://www.redcross.org/portal/site...110VgnVCM1000003481a10aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default
     
  48. gila_dog

    gila_dog Guide

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    I am a member of a volunteer fire/rescue department in a small town waaaay out in the boondocks. We get called to do just about anything (structure and wildfires, car wrecks, EMS calls of all kinds, and some SAR work). Our SAR missions so far have been more Rescue than Search. We usually know where the victim is. They just can't get themselves out of the fix they are in. Sometimes it's a medical problem or an injury that has disabled them. Experienced hikers and hunters haven't been much of a problem. It's usually the family of fat people who didn't bring any drinking water and wore crappy shoes, that we get called out for. We recently had to get a USFS firefighter out of a canyon. He had heat exhaustion and was down. Our main task so far has been to get an EMT (also volunteer) to the victim, get them stabilized, and then get them out of there. We are getting set up to do some basic rope work so that we can rappel an EMT to somebody, and then at least get our EMT out of there, whether we can rescue the victim or not. We may need to wait for more expertise to show up (many hours), but at least we can get the victim some emergency help and even get them out of there if possible. To do this we all need some basic training (EMS and rope work), but the main thing is to be in good enough shape to hike into very rough country to where the victim is, carrying the necessary equipment, and then get them, and ourselves back out.

    Nobody gets paid for it, and I don't think anybody gets charged for it. Sometimes a NM National Guard helicopter has to come in for the extraction, but I don't think the victim gets charged for it. Maybe the National Guard sees it as a training mission.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2012

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