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Home > Procedures > Standard Operating Procedures

Standing Operating Procedures

Click here for a pdf copy of the SOP's.

  1. Purpose
  2. Preplanning
  3. Notification and Dispatch for Emergency Response Request
    1. Receipt of Notification
      1. The UVWRT pager
      2. The "Callback"
    2. Member Notification and Dispatch
  4. Departure to Scene
    1. The Reminder Checklist
    2. Meeting Area
    3. Driving to Scene
  5. On Scene
    1. Alpha Team Arrival on Scene
      1. Naming the Team Commander and the ICS
    2. Signing in On Scene
  6. On Scene Behavior
    1. Professionalism
    2. Continuum of Command
  7. Planning, Tactics, Strategy and Operations
    1. Chain of Command
    2. Knowledge and Skills of SAR
    3. Communicating with the Media
    4. Safety
    5. Providing Medical Care in the Field
    6. Personal Preparation
    7. Attitude
    8. Dismissal from the Field
  8. Upon Completion of an Emergency Response
    1. Leaving the Scene
    2. Debriefing Report
    3. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
  9. Personal Responsibility/ Legal Issues
  10. Appendix I: Communications

I. Purpose:

  1. The purpose of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) is to provide a set of guidelines for field operations of the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team (UVWRT). These guidelines are intended to address the five standard components of search and rescue operations: 1) Preplanning 2) Notification 3)Planning and Strategy 4) Tactics and Operations 5) Suspension and Critique.
  2. The SOP's are designed with safety as the highest priority. Members wishing to maintain membership in the UVWRT must abide by these guidelines. At any time, members may be dismissed from the scene by an UVWRT officer should he/she compromise the safety of operations.
  3. Any changes to these SOP's will be brought to the attention of all members of the UVWRT.

II. Preplanning

  1. In advance preparation for a SAR operation members should:
    1. Thoroughly understand the guidelines listed herein.
    2. Possess and maintain at all times a 24 hour ready pack with the items described in the UVWRT Equipment List.
    3. Understand the rudiments of the INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM (ICS).
    4. All members should study, train, and prepare for SAR operations. Use the UVWRT SAR Technician III Objectives, as based on the National Association for Search and Rescue's suggestion for national standards of SAR personnel as guidelines.

III. Notification and Dispatch for an Emergency Response Request:

  1. Receipt of Notification
    1. UVWRT maintains an emergency pager network for receipt of emergency callout requests. [Currently, pager service is graciously being donated by Central Vermont Communications of Rutland, VT]. All UVWRT members expecting to respond to calls should acquire a team pager, as the pager network is the primary method employed to dispatch the team. Currently, all pagers are linked to a single number. Thus, when a callout is requested, every member's pager will be set off.
    2. Upon receipt of a page, a return call must be placed to determine the nature of the call and the requesting agency. UVWRT will only respond to an incident when requested to do so by a recognized authority involved in disaster and/or emergency management. Such authorities include the New Hampshire Dept. of Fish and Game, the Vermont State Police, and emergency fire, medical, or law enforcement agencies.

      Optimally, the return call should be placed by the highest team officer, the TEAM LEADER, but in any case should only be returned by an officer. The person returning the call should first page the entire team so as to notify them that someone is returning the call. This is done by paging out the identity code of the officer returning the code, possibly followed by the phone number at that officer's location.

      Thus the situation should work as follows:
      1. A callout page is received
      2. The Team Leader receives the page and is available to respond to the notification. The leader pages the team with the identity code and current number before dialing the initial callout page request number. If the callout page is received, but no page is sent out to the team to indicate that the TEAM LEADER is returning the page, then another officer should step in and answer the call. They should first page the team with their identity call to let the team know the page is being answered. This system allows for an added depth should the team leader or officers not be immediately available at the time of a callout request.
    3. Information regarding the callout request must be collected. A form to aid in the collection has been developed (SEE OFFICER APPENDIX). At a minimum the following information should be collected:
      1. Name of organization initiating emergency request
      2. Phone number(s) to reach said organization
      3. Nature of dispatch (number of people needed)
      4. When and where is the team wanted (DIRECTIONS with signs or markers are desired)t
      5. When, where, and to whom should the team leader report to on arrivalion
      6. Possible location for UVWRT Staging Area
      7. Any special details or circumstancesn
      8. Call off procedures
  2. Member Notification and Dispatch
    1. Member Notification
      1. Members will be notified via the team pager system. The pager code appropriate to the situation (e.g., callout, standby, etc...) will be sent. Member pagers are available from Central Vermont Communications at a discounted rate of $40 for the pager (no monthly service fees). These are not personal pagers as they will service a single number that will page all member pagers. Members interested in the purchase of such a pager should contact an officer. Note: Donations of any/all pagers to the team are appreciated.
      2. Information regarding the page will be posted to the team via email, as well as to the UVWRT team room answering machine. If unable to access email, or the answering machine attempt to contact an officer for details.
        1. Intended team departure time
        2. Meeting place (e.g., local or distant assembly area)
        3. Directions to intended UVWRT Staging Area* *"Staging area" and "Distant Assembly Area" are used interchangeably in these SOP's
      3. Active UVWRT members will be given the following information upon notification of a call out.
      4. See SOP Appendices for list of Pager Codes
      5. Note that a phone tree and email are not primary mechanisms for notification of a callout request. If time and the situation permits, an attempt to use the phone tree and email may be added as backup methods.

IV. Departure to scene:

  1. The Reminder Checklist
    1. A UVWRT Reminder Checklist, which summarizes the necessary gear for a callout, has been prepared to help members double check their inventory immediately before they respond to a call.
  2. Local Assembly Area:
    1. The UVWRT local assembly area will be the Medical School Parking Lot farthest from the Green unless specified differently. All members responding to the scene must have an approved 24 hour pack (see UVWRT Equipment List) including food and water.
    2. The members forming the initial response comprise the "alpha team" and they will depart at the designated tim
    3. Note that the local assembly area will be used only if specified. (That is to say that in an urgent callout, the team will depart immediately to the scene without first meeting at the local assembly area.)
  3. Driving To Scene:
    1. In addition to the essential gear listed on the UVWRT Equipment List, drivers are expected to carry road maps of New Hampshire and Vermont in their vehicle.
    2. The UVWRT does not condone or accept from its members driving outside the limits of the law including but not limited to regulations applying to:
      1. speeding
      2. driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
    3. Members must get to the emergency in a safe and responsible manner.
    4. Members must drive, if possible, to the UVWRT Staging Area directly.
    5. Emergency lights/strobes of any kind are NOT to be used on route or return from a callout. Use of such lights will result in automatic suspension and possible expulsion from the team.

V. On Scene Arrival:

  1. Alpha Team Arrival On Scene at Distant Assembly Area:
    1. Naming the Team Commander:
      1. The first party to arrive on scene (Alpha Team) must include a designated Team Leader.
      2. All members must immediately sign UVWRT Arrival Log.
      4. The TL then the UVWRT member of highest authority and is in charge of setting up the Incident Command System (ICS). The squad leader system should be employed as the primary source of ICS management.
  2. Signing In On Scene:
    1. All members must sign the Arrival Logs as soon as they arrive at the Staging Area.
    2. Any members leaving the Staging Area must remain in teams of two or more. Before leaving, members need to complete a Mission Board entry including.
      1. name
      2. mission
      3. time, estimated time of mission
      4. person authorizing mission
    3. Any member returning to the Staging Area must complete the Mission Board entry by:
      1. signing return time
    4. A separate Mission Board entry must be completed any time any member leaves or returns to the Staging Area.
    5. UVWRT members arriving separate from the alpha team must remain at the staging area until given directions to do otherwise by an appropriate authority.

VI. On Scene Behavior:

  1. Professionalism:
    1. Behavior of all members of UVWRT must display a professional attitude.
    2. This is dictated by common sense, the standard of technical skill level to which each member is trained, and a regard for personal safety above all other issues.
  2. Continuum of Command:
    1. On scene changes in the command structure, including position exchanges, must be clearly communicated to all involved.
      1. Both members, the one giving up the position, and the one undertaking the position must be together and present and aware of the exchange.
      2. All others in the Team's chain of command must be notified.

VII. Planning , Strategy, Tactics and Operations

  1. Professionalism:
    1. The overall planning and operational authority of a field response belong to the requesting agency. On the occasion that UVWRT provides the initial response, members need to be familiar with overall search and rescue management. Members are referred to UVWRT SAR Technician III Objectives for an elaboration of the level of suggested familiarity.
    2. The overall incident will be run under the Incident Command System (ICS). UVWRT members need to be familiar with the form and vocabulary of the ICS in order to function smoothly with other agencies. Members are referred to UVWRT SAR Technician Objectives for further clarification. In addition, the UVWRT SAR Basics handout, Glossary of ICS Terms , is both recommended reading and a useful reference. [Know that the Team Commander is in charge of all team operations and the Safety Officer is allowed and dictated to stop any unsafe behavior.]
  2. Knowledge and Skills of SAR
    1. In general, members need to be familiar with and are responsible for working to meet the objectives listed in the UVWRT SAR Tech III Objectives., and should refer to that document for a more comprehensive coverage of the skills and knowledge used in the planning and execution phasesvof search and operations.
    2. All members should, at a minimum, be familiar with:
      1. Personal safety
      2. Land navigation (e.g., map and compass)
      3. Basic Search Techniques (e.g., Types I-III, confinement operations, concepts of active and passive search)
      4. Basic patient packaging and transport techniques (e.g., Stokes Litter)
      5. CPR and First Aid
  3. Communicating with the Media

    It is the policy of UVWRT to not communicate with the news media during field operations. Refer all questions to the Command Post, Public Relations Officer or the Team Leader.
  4. Safety

    Personal and team safety are of the highest priority in all phases of search and rescue operations. Any member uncomfortable with a particular duty or situation due to safety concerns should relay the circumstances via the appropriate chain of command. (The default is the Team Safety Officer, Squad Leader or the Team Leader)
  5. Providing Medical Care in the Field

    Team members are expected to perform 1) to their level of training and 2) within the limits of the relevant laws and regulations when providing medial care while on SAR operations.
  6. Personal Preparation

    It is the responsibility of the UVWRT individual team member to be appropriately prepared for SAR operations. Any unprepared member may be required to end their participation in field operations, and possibly depart the scene.
  7. Attitude

    Members on a call represent the UVWRT. As representatives they are expected to behave professionally at all times. Any behavior counterproductive to the team's efforts and or function within the ICS will not be tolerated. Unessential comment critiques and dissent have no place during the course of field operations, and they should be reserved until such operations have ended. Strict adherence to the chain of command is absolutely necessary in the field.
  8. Dismissal

    Any UVWRT Officer can dismiss someone from the field at any time without discussion, and that person must be prepared to leave as ordered. This is only done when necessary to protect the group and maintain the safety of its members. It is a condition of membership that members understand and accept this situation.

VIII. Upon Completion of an Emergency

  1. Leaving the Scene
    1. The TL must verify by the Arrival Logs that all members have departed the scene before the TL.
  2. Debriefing Report
    1. It is the responsibility of the highest ranking officer present on the call to collect all relevant information for post incident review.
  3. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
    1. Members of UVWRT are encouraged to use available resources after any incident that may have been psychologically trying. There are local critical incident stress debriefing teams composed of people trained to help others recover from the psychological trauma that often accompanies emergency work.

      Conn. River Valley 802-674-5717
      emergency 802-674-2113

      Granite State 603-594-3658
      emergency 603-596-4321
      ans. service 603-595-3792

IX. Personal Responsibility/Liability

  1. UVWRT does NOT provide any kind of insurance coverage. All members must realize that the activities of UVWRT are hazardous and that there is the possibility of death, disability, and/or loss of property and that the individual recognizes and accepts these risks, releasing UVWRT and its members from all liability. Members are expected to carry adequate personal health and auto insurance on their own.
  2. Members of UVWRT should not expect the organization to provide official assistance to members involved in case of accident, illness, auto accident, or lawsuits arising out of his/her membership with the organization. Again, individual participants in UVWRT functions assume all responsibilities and consequences of all actions/events.
  3. Members are expected to behave responsibly and professionally at all times. Adequate dedication to UVWRT activities, including meetings, training sessions, and official call-outs is required. It is understood and accepted by all that members may not be able to attend all UVWRT functions, but an obvious laxity in dedication is not acceptable and constitutes grounds for dismissal.
  4. Do not count on UVWRT to feed, clothe, equip, transport, or train its members free of charge. Members should be prepared to participate in fund raising activities of the organization. UVWRT's budget is open to examination, and proper reporting of the use of funds is mandatory. Note that members are expected to cover all individual expenses out of pocket, including, but not limited to: gear, food, training, transportation, and personal insurance.
  5. Members are also individually responsible for understanding and complying with all federal, state, and local laws or regulations that may apply to the individual, the organization, or it's activities


  1. UVWRT Communications Net
    1. UVWRT is currently working to develop a communications net
    2. UVWRT members are expected to be familiar with the communications procedures outlined below
    3. If communications are provided by another agency, record the frequencies used, and if possible, also record a phone number for contact with the Command Post
  2. Communication Procedures in General
    1. Always test radios on each mission prior to departure from the staging area. (All radio units in the field should be compatible with the equipment at the Command Post.)
    2. If message is unclear or complicated, receiver should repeat message content to the transmitter.
    3. No unit should assume that any message was received by any other unit.
    4. Security over the radio is essential.
      1. Try not to use any names and NEVER state the subject's name, instead always use "subject(s)".
      2. If the subject is found, immediately switch to the alternate frequency (if possible) and inform the Command Post.
      3. If the subject is deceased, NEVER state that over the radio, simply repeat "the subject has been found".
      4. Use the Extended Status Codes to refer to the subject's condition:

        STATUS I - Alive and well, able to evacuate self

        STATUS II - Ill or injured, requires evacuation and/or medical treatment

        STATUS III - Dead
      5. All messages must be professional, concise, specific, never derogatory, never about death, and if sensitive issues need broadcasting, use code-words.
      6. Radio messages should be kept short.
      7. Do not interrupt others using the same frequency.
      8. When referencing time, use the 24 hour clock system.
  3. Concerning the use of Portable Radios
    1. Press the transmission button for one second before speaking, and release it one second after finishing. Speaking immediately after pressing the mike can truncate the initial part of the message.
    2. Hold the antenna vertically.
    3. Speak slowly and clearly.
    4. Do not shout or talk too softly.
    5. Troubleshooting contact problems:
      1. Move the radio around, sometimes even a foot can make a difference.
      2. Touch the metal of the antenna to a pack frame or even your face to improve ground.
      3. Check the battery
  4. Whistles and Sirens
    1. Whistles are a great backup device and can carry up to a mile.
    2. The standard whistle signals are:
      1. ONE BLAST - I'm OK; I'm here, Move forward, or as a signal for the subject
      2. TWO BLASTS - STOP! Await further instructions.
      3. FOUR BLASTS - Found something, require assistance, stop.
      4. FIVE BLASTS - Assemble.
      5. SIX BLASTS - Return to base camp.