Want to explore the world of Search and Rescue as a profession? I’ll delve into the training (of which I can only scratch the surface). Paid vs Volunteer and try to give you some insight so you can decide if you want to pursue Search and Rescue Jobs.
What is Search and Rescue (SAR)?
The goal of SAR is to locate, stabilize, provide provision of aid and extract individuals in distress or imminent danger of loss of life or bodily injury as well as recover the bodies of those who have perished in a wilderness or urban disaster situation.
That can mean a hiker lost on the trail, a trapped victim in a building collapse, an Alzheimer’s patient wandering the streets, a Kayaker trapped in the rapids or responding to a 911 type of event.
Each area of SAR employs techniques specific to the situation. SAR teams almost always work with local law enforcement, Fire departments as well as FEMA on larger scale disasters.
Although many squads do have full time paid search rescue jobs, most SAR team members are volunteer. SAR teams can be a small group of members that serve a small jurisdiction to large county teams with many members.
Why a Search and Rescue Job?
Every time a hiker goes lost in the woods or a child wanders from a camp site, you typically see a news crew respond to record the images of search dogs sniffing the ground for clues or a row of people standing shoulder to shoulder beating the bushes for signs of the missing.
But SAR is so much more than that. In todays world of SAR, we train extensively in many aspects of SAR.
Just in my unit alone, we have Rescue/Recovery Diver, Urban Sear and Rescue (USAR), a Mountain Bike team that dispatches to areas where ATV is impractical if not impossible to utilize.
We have SWART (Swift Water Rescue Team), HART (Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team), structure collapse, Vehicle Pin-In…. The list goes on.
Now, consider that my local area has mountains, rivers, lakes, water falls, mountain bike trails, hiking trails, camp sites and rock climbing just to name a few popular outdoor activities.
There are a ton of places for people to get into trouble and we have to be ready to help in any one of them.
Where you live may be all urban, so your training may not need cover so many disciplines.
No matter what your environment, SAR team members consistently train to a high level of proficiency.
A little deeper into the specialties
The following are considered urban disasters:
- Plane crashes
- Hazardous material spills
- Catastrophic structural collapses
NFPA 1670 lists 7 general categories of Search and Rescue
- Confined Space
- SAR – Base term for Search and Rescue.
- USAR – Urban SAR. Search techniques for urban or city environments.
- MSAR – Mountain SAR. Search techniques employed for mountain rescue.
- HART – Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. HART can be deployed on land and sea.
- Diver – Most cases that call for divers involve body recovery or item recovery in a criminal investigation.
- Swift Water – Encompasses rescue techniques from the shoreline but expands to boat operations as well. There is even advanced training for the operator of the Swift boat.
- HAZMAT – Hazardous Material
Many hours of training go into each of these disciplines. Although you may not be interested in all of them, the truth is many discipline’s training and skills cross over from one to the other.
For example, You may only be interested in a Wilderness Search and Rescue Jobs but you will need to know Vertical Ropes, wilderness survival (for you), maybe add Man Tracking skills to that list that come in handy when looking for a lost person in the woods.
How do you learn?
Although a lot of your training comes from within the squad, to obtain certifications you have to take official classes sponsored by your local college or thru organizations such as TERMS, as in my case here in North Carolina.
There are literally hundreds of class available.You can scan available classes for any given month and register for the class. Classes are free to members of Rescue services, Police, etc. At least this is the case in North Carolina. Your training resources may vary.
You’ve probably concluded by now that Search and Rescue Jobs are mostly a volunteer endeavor. I have seen a few postings for paid members, but that’s a small percentage of the rescue population.
So, should you forget about a career in SAR? Of course not! If you decide that a career in Search and Rescue is for you, the best way to get started is to volunteer at your local rescue squad.
From there you will learn valuable training and become known within the community. Then when an opening becomes available, you will already have the skills to make you a strong candidate for employment.
Should you decide to seek employment elsewhere, should definitely still consider joining your local rescue squad as a volunteer.
I personally, am a volunteer. I have met many great people dedicated to serving their community. The training and knowledge I have learned is worth every minute I give back to my community.
I hope you found this article helpful. PLEASE leave comments below so I can improve the article and make it more informative.