Mountainpathfinder>> Georgia SAR>> Frequently Asked Questions about...Search and Rescue in Georgia
A: "Search and rescue," for this website, refers to the efforts to locate, access, stabilize, and transport lost or missing persons to a place of safety. This can happen in wilderness, rural, or urban areas. Mountainpathfinder.com primarily deals with the search and rescue of lost or missing persons in circumstances other than disasters. This website doesn't focus much on collapsed-structure rescue, or rescue done in and around buildings and other man-made structures that are damaged in natural- or man-made disasters. Collapsed-structure rescue is such an involved topic that readers are better served by researching other websites.
A: "Wilderness" SAR is interpreted differently by different organizations, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is specifically understood to happen in areas in which there are very few buildings and little or no agriculture outside of timber harvesting. However, most teams that are generally deemed to be "wilderness" teams will actually respond to incidents in wilderness, rural, suburban, and even urban areas.
A: The phrase, "urban SAR," usually refers to to efforts to find lost or missing persons in and around collapsed man-made structures in densely-populated areas. Mountainpathfinder.com often refers to "urban search," which in the SAR community is understood to be the efforts to locate lost or missing persons in cities or suburbs outside of disaster circumstances.
A: A lot of things keep good-intentioned but ill-prepared people out of searches. Some typical bars include -
A: First, where do your interests lie? Are you only interested in lost-person search in your city or suburb? Or do you want to pursue SAR in backcountry, rural and suburban/urban areas?
Once you've resolved that, then your job is to find what it will take to prepare you in the areas of:
A: Start with your own community. Inquire with your county's emergency manager. Many county emergency management agencies (EMAs) maintain a volunteer SAR team. Many EMAs also have Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), or county or neighborhood organizations that prepare for local emergencies. Some of these do SAR. County fire departments and sheriff's departments often have volunteer firefighters or "sheriff's posses" that do SAR as part of their community work. Even if none of these have teams dedicated to SAR, they may still be able to direct you to reputable and local private teams.
There are also some state-wide volunteer organizations that participate in SAR. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. CAP performs about 70 percent of the searches for missing U.S. aircraft. They search from airplanes and on the ground. CAP also participates in lost-person searches in Georgia at the request of local, state, or federal officials. Members are civilian volunteers who wear US Air Force uniforms in the execution of their duties. CAP has squadrons throughout Georgia. The Georgia State Defense Force is a uniformed, civilian arm of the Georgia Department of Defense. Its primary mission is to support the Georgia Army National Guard inside the state. SDF does a great deal of peacetime community work including SAR.
Other sources for team references include the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR). You might also use Internet search engines such as Google to find teams.
A: There are no hard-and-fast, state-wide requirements. The absolute minimum required by most public and private organizations are:
A: GEMA courses - GEMA teaches the courses at local emergency management agencies. Contact your county's EMA director or check GEMA's schedule of "field delivered courses" for dates and times near you.
Wilderness search skills/survival skills (general) - NASAR courses represent some of the best combinations of wilderness SAR- and personal survival/safety skills. Once you've been introduced to SAR and personal safety skills, local teams conduct their own training to improve upon that training base.
Land navigation/GPS - An excellent starting point is your local REI store. REI stores offer some excellent and free training in the use of maps and compasses as well as Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. That's especially important for the ins-and-outs of using your GPS. I know very few people who ever become fully proficient with a GPS by only reading the user's manual. Take a class in which you learn that unit from stem to stern. Another source is the Georgia Orienteering Club. Orienteering is a sport involving map and compass skills. It's geared to all ages and levels of athletic ability. It's also a great way to learn some rudimentary navigation skills from really proficient navigators. The "white" courses are the best starting point for anyone learning the basics of terrain association and point-to-point navigation. You might also contact the instructors at your local college's military ROTC or high school's junior ROTC program. These programs include land navigation in their training.
NIMS Incident Command System - FEMA's Independent Study Program (ISP) website is your first stop in satisfying your ICS training requirements. FEMA IS offers free, simple, and quick online courses that you'll need to function at an incident. I especially encourage anyone taking the NASAR courses or the SARTECH evaluations to complete all of these IS classes:
Emergency Medicine - At an absolute minimum you should seek a course that is at least an equivalent to the 6.5-hour "Standard First Aid with CPR for Adults" course from the American Red Cross (ARC). A team standard ought to be a course that meets the 1995 U.S. Department of Transportation First Responder training requirements. These classes are often described as "First Responder" course or the ARC "Emergency Response" course. Thanks to Georgia's HOPE grant, volunteers with the spare time can think about the Emergency Medical Technician-B (EMT-B) training program at little cost at many local technical colleges.
The shortcoming in all of these training programs is that they assume that you and the subject are within an hour of a primary medical care facility. That's just not the case in many search incidents. It may take an hour or more to carry the subject out to a trailhead so he or she can then take an ambulance ride of a hour to the hospital. Searchers who want to prepare for this ought to take one of the many "wilderness"-type emergency medical classes. "Wilderness medical" classes get you ready for "extended" or "remote" care situations that may last hours or might require you to improvise your medical supplies. Classes such as these are taught in Georgia by:
Communications/Amateur "ham" radio use - The best "one-stop shopping" for this is the Georgia Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) website. There's complete information on rules, classes, and testing throughout Georgia. Ham radios are a big part of the volunteer SAR communications network. And the modern, hand-held, two-meter units make their operation very easy by permitting pre-programming of frequently used frequencies. That being said, very few volunteers become truly proficient at manual programming of frequencies on-the-fly. That happens a lot when going outside your usual response area.
A: A lot, depending upon your financial means and your goals in SAR. If your interests lie in lost-person search exclusively in urban or suburban areas, then your training may be at no cost and your expenses may be less than one hundred dollars. Expenses for anyone interested in being fully prepared for wilderness search may invest over $1,000 in the process. For wilderness searchers the expenses break out into at least three cost categories:
A: Yes. Many organizations can use motivated individuals to help with base camp support. Base camp support includes traffic control, handling radio communications, and driving searchers to/from the command post to search assignments
A: Quite a few. They include:
A: There are several -
Subscription to all of these is through the same process as GASAR.
A: The only paid, full-time jobs in SAR in Georgia that I am aware of are the the US Air Force pararescuemen posted to Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta, Georgia. What they do is technically combat SAR; however, they may assist civilian officials with local SAR. There may be some US Coast Guard rescue swimmers posted on the Georgia coast. Otherwise, there are no paid, full-time jobs in SAR in Georgia. Everyone that I know that is involved is either a volunteer or someone who does it as a collateral duty to their paid job in another field.
A: There aren't operational ones any that accepts novice volunteers aside from CAP and SDF. The Georgia Body Recovery Team seems to be composed of experienced volunteers from other public or private teams. There are several public or private teams that may respond around the state. However, all of them focus primarily on one section of the state (private teams) or are limited to certain areas (the Georgia Department of Natural Resources SAR Team responds only to incidents on state-owned or managed properties unless requested by state officials.
The Georgia Trackers Alliance is a statewide tracking organization with mission-ready trackers, but it is more of a training association
A: Yes, if my time and funds permit. Email me with what you have in mind.
Q: "Is there a required physical fitness/conditioning test for search and rescue volunteers in Georgia?"
A: No. Individual teams have implemented their own physical conditioning test. The most common one is the US Forest Service "work capacity test (WCT) ." It's referred to as the "pack test." A team may demand that its members meet either the "arduous" or the "moderate" requirements of the WCT. The "arduous" requirement expects you to hike three miles in 45 minutes while wearing a 45-lb pack. The "moderate" requirement expects you to hike two miles in 30 minutes with a 25-lb pack. The hike is over a flat track or distance. No jogging is allowed.
A: The National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) is probably the single best-represented wilderness SAR trainer in the state of Georgia. The state government offers no meaningful wilderness SAR training.
A: Try your local SAR team first. Some local fire departments or emergency management agencies have rope rescue teams that regularly train for high-angle rescue work. The Georgia Fire Academy offers a series of rope rescue classes; however, you must already be a member of a Georgia public safety agency to take these classes at no charge. Tom Vines, at OnRope1, offers top-notch rope rescue training that meets industry standards.
A: The place to find cave rescue training is the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) of the National Speleological Society (NSS). First, become a good caver. You're going to be challenged to be a good cave rescuer until you're "functionally comfortable" in the cave environment. Then, tap into your local NSS grotto to get involved with any local cave rescue specialists. Take those NSS and NCRC classes.
A: Probably the best school of tracking training is the Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Service. While there are many individuals or organizations offering tracking training, Joel's is the only one that I will recommend. JHPTS offers both a series of training courses as well as a certification program. At the same time, get in touch with the Georgia Trackers Alliance (GTA) to get involved in its monthly workshops. Tracking is an intensive, dirty endeavor that takes a great deal of time before you're proficient. That being said, it's incredibly fun!
Thanks to Allen Padgett, of Search and Rescue Dogs of Georgia (SARDOG), for his contributions to this FAQ.