Search and Rescue

Search and rescue (SAR) is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger. The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, typically determined by the type of terrain the search is conducted over. These include mountain rescue; ground search and rescue, including the use of search and rescue dogs; urban search and rescue in cities; combat search and rescue on the battlefield and air-sea rescue over water.

There are many different definitions of search and rescue, depending on the agency involved and country in question.

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Ground search and rescue is the search for persons who are lost or in distress on land or inland waterways. People may go missing for a variety of reasons. Some may disappear voluntarily, due to issues like domestic abuse. Others disappear for involuntary reasons such as mental illness, getting lost, an accident, death in a location where they cannot be found or, less commonly, due to abduction. Ground search and rescue missions that occur in urban areas should not be confused with "urban search and rescue", which in many jurisdictions refers to the location and extraction of people from collapsed buildings or other entrapments.

In most countries, the police are the primary agency for carrying out searches for a missing person on land. Some places have voluntary search and rescue teams that can be called out to assist these searches.

Urban search and rescue (US&R or USAR), also referred to as Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR), is the location and rescue of persons from collapsed buildings or other urban and industrial entrapments. Due to the specialized nature of the work, most teams are multi-disciplinary and include personnel from police, fire and emergency medical services. Unlike traditional ground search and rescue workers, most US&R responders also have basic training in structural collapse and the dangers associated with live electrical wires, broken natural gas lines and other hazards. While earthquakes have traditionally been the cause of US&R operations, terrorist attacks and extreme weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes have also resulted in the deployment of these resources.

Maritime search and rescue is carried out at sea to save sailors and passengers in distress, or the survivors of downed aircraft. The type of agency which carries out maritime search and rescue varies by country; it may variously be the coast guard, navy or voluntary organizations. When a distressed or missing vessel is located, these organizations deploy helicopters, rescue vessels or any other appropriate vessel to return them to land. In some cases, the agencies may carry out an air-sea rescue (ASR). This refers to the combined use of aircraft (such as flying boats, floatplanes, amphibious helicopters and non-amphibious helicopters equipped with hoists) and surface vessels.

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