It started as an innocent hike, but it quickly turned life threatening. Three miles out, part of the trail gave way beneath your friend's feet. Now she's on the forest floor with a broken leg, and the mountains seem to be blocking your cell-phone signal. If you go to get help, you're going to have to leave her here -- unable to walk and shivering with shock in the chilly autumn air. It's going to take you at least an hour to get back to the base camp. How can you get your friend to medical help -- or medical help to her?

You're in luck. The area has a volunteer search and rescue (SAR) team. They can get to the trail sooner than the emergency personnel of the nearest town can. Within two hours, your friend is under a blanket, and strapped to a stretcher on the back of an all-terrain vehicle.

Your friend is safe, but the experience makes you think. Who are these people who give their time to rescue others? And, what would it be like to do something like that?

To get an idea of search-and-rescue jobs, just imagine all the different ways people can get lost. A search and rescue team might be called in to help in the following instances:

  • An Amber Alert is issued for a missing child.
  • A camper wanders off into the woods and gets lost.
  • A driver abandons his stalled truck in a blizzard.
  • A person leaps into a river in a suspected suicide attempt.
  • A hurricane or tornado causes widespread destruction.
  • A family doesn't return from its boating excursion.
  • A dangerous criminal is at large.

As these examples show, not all SAR jobs are rural, and not all of them demand rugged mountaineering skills. Many SAR jobs take place in cities. Familiarity with the environment -- whether it's a national forest or an urban jungle -- is an immense advantage. Where you live will define the types of SAR jobs you encounter.

Searching may be as simple as walking up and down city blocks and alleys. It could also involve knowing how to keep your bearings in a snowstorm, knowing how to rappel down a cliff, paddling a kayak or spotting signs of life from a helicopter. Some SAR jobs involve navigation skills, such as using GPS. The "rescue" part of the operation often demands first-aid skills, if not EMT training.

Being prepared for any emergency demands knowing what to do in a variety of difficult situations. Specific SAR teams have different training requirements, but here are some skills and training you will likely need:

  • First aid and CPR training. You may already have this; many people (such as teachers) are required to have it for their jobs. The Red Cross, among other organizations, offers brief training courses and certification in these skills.
  • Basic search and response training
  • SAR TECH training (This comes in three different levels of certification.)
  • Land navigation skills, such as using different types of maps, a compass and GPS
  • Hazardous materials (HazMat) training. You'll need this to deal with oil spills, chemical leaks, certain biohazards and more.
  • Emergency Response to Terrorism (or some other form of terrorism response training). This training was developed by the National Fire Academy for local law enforcement and fire response teams. You may earn certification in these skills.
  • Federal Community Emergency Response Team training. CERT training provides certification from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and helps local personnel respond to crises before federal personnel arrive.
  • Tracking skills
  • National Incident Management System training for First Responders 

Certain environments -- water, air, mountains, extreme cold and heat -- demand additional training. You'll have to be a good swimmer to participate in water SAR efforts, and you might want to have lifeguard training. You'll need to know how to work safely on a boat for SAR efforts that involve boating. Mountaineering and wilderness safety training are also important. And searching through the rubble of a collapsed building involves an entirely separate set of skills.

Finally, some SAR personnel seek training in counseling and stress management so that they can deal better with the families of missing persons and emergency victims. You might also want training in educational techniques if you will be assisting in your SAR team's outreach and preparation efforts.

Can all this training get expensive? In a word, yes. However, the National Association of Volunteer Search and Rescue Teams offers its members financial aid for training. It also offers grants to qualified member SAR teams so that the teams may bring training to their members [source: NAVSAR].

If you're getting into dangerous situations, you'd better have the equipment to deal with them. 

What gear you'll need for a search and rescue mission depends on the emergency at hand. For example, a collapsed building doesn't demand the exact equipment setup you'd use to rescue a lost hiker. Your gear will also depend on your training. And you'll need to know your environment and its typical extremes.

Your team will require that you carry a certain minimum of standardized equipment. What you carry beyond that is up to you. Following your training, you'll likely have a good idea of all the different things that can go wrong, and the ways you can prepare for those problems. On an actual SAR effort, you'll have to balance preparation against practicality and endurance -- what you can realistically carry for what may be a very long day of work.

Some items to consider are:

  • Comfortable, appropriate shoes, and multiple pairs of socks
  • Protective headgear, such as a helmet or hardhat
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Pocket multi-purpose tool or Swiss Army knife
  • Large tarp (useful not just for keeping things dry but also for constructing a makeshift stretcher)
  • Signal flares
  • Reflective tape
  • Life vest
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Wading boots
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Trail mix or snack bars
  • Protection against heat and cold -- such as extra water, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, gloves, thermal underwear, ear and face protection, pocket hand warmers and an insulated jacket or jumpsuit
  • Backpack with padded straps for toting your supplies around

The above article is from writer Eleanor Duse on How Stuff

How you can join us:

To become a part of The Marion County SAR Team, you should be a resident of Marion County or the surrounding area or be able to provide unique qualified resources (ie. canine, aircraft, or technical abilities). Be 18 years of age with a High School Diploma. This undertaking can be very rewarding, as well as demanding, but you will discover qualities within yourself you never dreamed you had. You’ll make new friends who share your commitment to caring. The support you bring to this organization will reinforce the Search and Rescue motto, “So that others may live.” 

​Every year many children, elderly parents, outdoor enthusiasts, etc., get lost. Their families' lives could be changed forever if not found. We can't change the course of events that have happened, but we can help by assisting police, fire departments, or other accredited agencies in bringing loved ones home to their families. This is not a job for everyone. It takes time, commitment, training and above all a love for Search and Rescue work. But, if you are in good health, and willing to help, you can become part of our energetic team that can be activated here In Marion County as well as State of Florida.

          Marion County Search and Rescue is looking for energetic and dedicated volunteers. Volunteers will become trained in the art of survival among the wilderness, as well as perform search and rescue missions for lost individuals. We also need volunteers for logistics, medical and planning.  So there is a place on the team for anyone that is willing to help. Our team will consist of K9 handlers, individual man-trackers, land group searchers, and etc. 

          If you have any of these interests and would like to join, (you do not have to be experienced ... we will teach you all the way. Initiative is all we ask ...), Please hit the "Apply Here" blue link button below. Fill out that application and email it back to us. 

Thank You

If you would like to volunteer your time and join our team please fill out the application below and email it in to Frank Marino at:


 Marion County
Search & Rescue


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