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Ground SAR education and certification is focused on building efficient and capable ground searchers that are professional clue and missing person seekers with the ability to interpret and protect clues as well as provide medical assistance to patients, searchers and the public. 

Ground SAR is built around the acronym LAST, which stands for the basic steps of Locate, Access, Stabilize, Transport.  We use this acronym regardless of the environment the mission is in.

Every searcher requires the skills of a ground searcher.  The concepts taught during ground SAR training apply to every specialty discipline that may deployed on a search mission.  If you want to participate in SAR, being a ground searcher is where you start.

Ground searchers may have specialized skills that they excel in like tracking, working a SAR canine, technical rope rescue, Mounted SAR, backcountry SAR, or medical care.  Searchers operate day and night, in extreme weather that would make Chuck Norris queasy, over snow, at altitude, in austere wilderness, urban, suburban and rural environments. -NASAR



Water SAR involves several different types, all related to searching for victims in water and/or recovering drowned/deceased persons from waterways, other than swimming pools.

Searches involving lakes, ponds, stock dams, rivers, streams, washes, and irrigation canals are all categorized under this topic. Flash floods also are included but present a greater and often extreme risk.

Water searches are dynamic as once a person is reportedly submerged or swept away; time is absolutely critical for survivability. If not rescued within a very short timeframe, usually 30 minutes or less, the incident transitions to a recovery rather than a rescue. Many areas do not have water rescue capabilities either, even if they have waterways used for recreation in their jurisdiction. 


Watercraft and side-scan sonar play a critical role in searching for and locating drowned persons. The waterways in our region are "muddy" and that results in zero to very limited visibility, often just a couple of feet at most. This presents inherent risks and hazards to searchers as hazards are often invisible and that presents greater challenges for teams to navigate waterways while trying to locate something they cannot see.  Watercraft have to be capable of safely being able to navigate the waterway where the incident is. Rivers can have shallow channels with a lot of debris, uneven bottoms, log jams, boulders, rapids, swift currents, and currents that can present challenges to the vessel.  Other factors such as weather, season, and water levels can also impact the watercraft.


Side-scan sonar is an absolute must when searching for a drowning victim in our region, but it too has its limits and requires a great deal of knowledge, coordination, and technique but they are very helpful in identifying anomalies that can be further checked by a diver or ROV, depending on water conditions.


Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are submersible drones that some agencies and teams have on hand to search for and check out targets that are detected on sonar. They can be very helpful in unsafe conditions where placing a dive team in would be very unsafe.


Water searches, especially rivers, present a great deal of challenge to search teams as the search area changes, sometimes hourly, and at least daily. Water levels and currents can lower or increase. Currents can change. Debris, riverbanks, and sand bars can all shift or erode, move and sink. This all has to be taken into account when search teams are evaluating a search mission. It requires a critical evaluation of safety conditions as to whether or not searchers can be safely put into the water while also planning for potential incidents to occur and how to respond to those and prepare as well.


Searching for and recovering a victim from a waterway involves a methodical and scientific approach. Several factors determine whether a person will float or surface and when. Temperature of the water, wind, water current, metabolic buildup of the person, clothing, alcohol/food/drug consumption, and body fat percentage all play a role in with time as to when and how a body acts in water. Search teams have to account for this all when performing a water search/recovery and this is also where being able to pinpoint or know as close to exact as possible where a person was last seen in the water or where they entered.


Aircraft and aerial drones play another key role in search & rescue, but the absolute best search efforts are conducted in a manner that involves a combination of the available resources. Whether the search requires ground, water, and air assets, or simply ground and air or water and air, it is imperative that coordination be done between all in order to properly search an assigned area for a lost, missing, injured, or deceased person. 

Aircraft are often the first asset utilized in searches; however, they are not the most reliable. Statistics show that aircraft fails to observe or spot a subject 67% of the time. This is often due to factors such as weather, altitude, speed, ground cover, terrain, and human error. It again warrants the need for ground or water elements, or both, to work in tandem and in coordination with air assets to make the best efforts during a search. An area cannot be simply flown and declared as searched or cleared, there must be a ground search effort performed.

Tools with aircraft such as night vision or thermal imaging are very helpful, but they too have their limits. Aircraft searches must also require that a pilot is accompanied by a trained observer to maximize efforts. Pilots have enough to focus on with the aircraft, they cannor be expected to both fly and search at the same time. Search patterns must also be planned out and coordinated for the area and take into account the weather and terrain. 

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