Search & Rescue

Douglas Taylor Misc

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.

International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) is a UN organization that promotes the exchange of information between national urban search and rescue organizations. The duty to render assistance is covered by Article 98 of the UNCLOS.

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

Canadian Forces: "Search and Rescue comprises the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger."

United States Coast Guard: "The use of available resources to assist persons or property in potential or actual distress."

United States Defense Department: A search is "an operation normally coordinated by a Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) or rescue sub-center, using available personnel and facilities to locate persons in distress" and rescue is "an operation to retrieve persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs, and deliver them to a place of safety".

In the United States there are many organizations with SAR responsibilities at the national, state and local level. Most day-to-day SAR missions in the US are run by the County Sheriffs, except in states like Alaska, where the State Highway Patrol oversees SAR. They in turn, can request help from state and national resources, if they think they need them. A typical Sheriff's Office has a volunteer SAR team that matches the terrain and population of that county. SAR members are typically trained in the Incident Command System (ICS), first aid, and the outdoor skills needed in that terrain and climate. Most of this article is about the federal response to assist large complicated SAR missions.

In January 2008, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the National Response Framework which serves as the guiding document for a federal response during a national emergency. Search and Rescue is divided into 4 primary elements, while assigning a federal agency with the lead role for each of the 4 elements.

Structural Collapse-USAR: Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency

Waterborne: United States Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

Inland-wilderness: United States Department of Interior, National Park Service

Aeronautical: United States Air Force via the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and USAF rescue wings, groups and squadrons in the Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces (for Alaska and Hawaii), Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard; the Civil Air Patrol in its role as the USAF Auxiliary; and the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, both Active and Reserve (secondary missions for land-based USN maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons and land-based and sea-based USN/USMC helicopter squadrons)

SAR standards adopted by agencies having jurisdiction are developed primarily by non-governmental organizations, including ASTM International and National Fire Protection Association. These standards are adopted also by training and certification organizations such as Mountain Rescue Association and National Association for Search and Rescue to develop training that will meet or exceed those standards. Within ASTM International, standards specific to SAR are developed by Technical Committee F32 on Search and Rescue. Formed in 1988, the committee had 85 current members and jurisdiction of 38 approved standards.