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Home > Training > Getting Started

Getting Started

There is a lot to know about Search and Rescue. Where does one start? Listed below are some suggestions about how to go about building SAR skills and what areas to concentrate on. It is highly recommended that all team members purchase and then study a SAR manual. An excellent and inexpensive manual is the Search and Rescue Training Associates' Ground Search and Rescue (210 pgs paperback., 3rd ed, 1989) [Available for $19.75 from Search Equipment Company at 1-800-473-4901]

#1 The ABC's

  1. Advance Preparation - Keep and maintain your 24 hour pack ready at all times. Make SURE that within a few minutes you can have all the necessary equipment ready to travel on a call. Bring your gear to drills, see how it functions. Test every item, learn to improvise with the materials you have available.
  2. Be There - Be at all the drills and meetings to learn as much as you can. Work with and learn from other team members at every available chance! If you have something you want to learn or practice, let the team know. Aside from learning specific new individual skills it is vital to integrate with the team, and the teams operations.
  3. Callouts - Make sure you are absolutely familiar with the callout procedures. This includes making absolutely sure that the Team has your most current contact numbers. If you move or change addresses, make sure you inform the team! If you have other numbers beside home or work where you might like to be reached, let the team know.

#2 The Incident Command System

Work on understanding the concepts and implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS). You absolutely must learn how to operate within the chain of command, and to represent the team well. Learn how it is organized, and master its often peculiar terminology. (Be sure you know the size of UVWRT's single resource!)

#3 Navigation

Master the basics of map and compass. Learn to read terrain. With a compass, concentrate on knowing how:

  • To take and follow bearings/backbearings
  • Building in error can aid navigation with compass
  • To work at night or other adverse weather conditions
  • You must be able to convert back and forth between "true" north and magnetic north. (memorize the declination: 16.5 degrees West)

With a map, concentrate on:

  • interpreting and matching terrain features
  • identifying likely areas to cover in a search
  • communicating locations on a map to others. (Learn the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system and the San Diego Mountain Rescue Team method for reading maps first!

#4 Search Techniques

Know the basics.

Search Theory: Learn about confinement, "clues", active and passive tactics, how the search area is determined, bastard searches, and why interviewing so important.

Search Practice: Know how to perform Type I, II and III searches. Know what the guiding system for type II and III searches involves.

#5 Patient Packaging

Know how to help assist in packaging of a patient into a Stokes Litter. Know what jobs need to be done, and how to do them. How is it done if it's raining hard, snowing, or windy? Also know how to help carry a litter on an evacuation. Learn how to switch in and out of a litter team smoothly and quickly. Learn how to help litter team members when you are free.

#6 Radio Communications

As you will learn, field communications provide the key to operating effectively. You need to learn how to use a radio, what the basic protocol and principles for basic radio communications are. You need to learn how to take care of the radios in the field and how perform basic troubleshooting when things don't work at first.

After learning the basics, then concentrate on more advanced concepts including search management, technical rescue, medical care, etc. Drills will expose members to aspects of advanced SAR, but it is always important to master the basic skills first. The knowledge and skills listed above are the most likely to be utilized repeatedly!