How Search and Rescue Is Conducted
When a hiker goes missing in the woods, local news stations will almost certainly broadcast photos of helicopters hovering overhead, German Shepherds sniffing the forest floor, and dozens of people scouring the woods for clues. The general public only gets a glimpse inside the world of search and rescue (SAR) teams in this quick glimpse. In actuality, SAR is much more than these glances on the news; it’s a large-scale emergency response effort including highly trained military personnel, local law enforcement, and citizen volunteers.
SAR’s mission is to identify, stabilize, and evacuate people in danger. A hiker on a mountainside, a sailor lost at sea, a stranded urban catastrophe survivor, a kidnapped soldier, or an Alzheimer’s patient wandering city streets are examples of this. Each area of SAR utilizes strategies that are unique to the situation. Skilled ocean swimmers and helicopter pilots are required for air and water rescue. Combat rescue is carried out by the military’s most skilled Special Forces units. Hazardous material expertise and structural professionals are needed for urban SAR.
SAR teams work throughout the world every day, from FEMA to county sheriff departments, skilled technicians, and local volunteers. This post will look at the numerous types of training SAR teams receive and the vehicles and equipment they use to fulfill their responsibilities. We’ll also learn about specific areas of SAR and the procedures and strategies used to securely identify and retrieve persons in distress.
The Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia, is home to the US Military’s National SAR School. The United States Air Force and the United States Coast Guard jointly operate it, and its motto says it all: “Always Ready, That Others May Live.” The school began with a meager $15,000 and only six qualified teachers, but by October 2006, it had taught more than 29,000 personnel from 148 different nations in maritime and inland SAR techniques [source: Coast Guard].
The school’s students are taught by experienced SAR professionals, many of whom are alumni. They can hold up to three classes of students learning planning techniques and putting them into practice in real-life SAR scenarios simultaneously. The school’s major program objectives are to:
- Reduce the time it takes to find what you’re looking for.
- Reduce the number of people who die and the amount of destroyed property.
- Minimize personal injury and environmental damage.
- Maintain our position as the world’s leading SAR training center.
A good aim for the SAR school’s program is to save 93 percent of persons in danger and 85 percent of the property at risk. SAR teams from the Coast Guard are intended to be ready for action within 30 minutes of receiving information from the National Distress and Response System (NRDS), with a total response time of two hours from notification to arrival on the site [source: Training Center Yorktown].
The Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures assessment is the benchmark for a SAR team’s success (NATOPS). SAR team members take a lengthy written test that includes everything from equipment operations to almost every SAR method after thoroughly evaluating the teams’ record keeping and documentation. “What pitch and roll restrictions should be maintained during emergency lubrication system operations?” is an example question.