New York Search & Rescue
Frequently Asked Questions
> Can you recommend some beginner classes to see if I'm going to like being
> involved in search and rescue?
See our answer further below for some background on search & rescue types.
But, in general, start with these:
- Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS 100)
- Basic First Aid & CPR
Once you have these basic classes, you're about ready to come out into the
field and get some hands on search and rescue training. Other recommended
classes after completion of the above:
- NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Basic Search & Rescue class
- FEMA Basic Incident Command System (ICS 200)
- Communications / radio training (HAM radio is good)
- National Association for Search & Rescue Fundamentals of Search & Rescue Class
- NASAR SAR Technician III & II
- Numerous other FEMA home study classes
Members of our team are given a curriculum of training with group and
> How much time will be required of me if I join a team? Do you have weekly
We generally meet once a month, somewhere within our primary service area.
This is almost always on a weekend day and lasts all day. There are some months
that are busier than others, especially in the warmer weather. We also list optional
classes / events on our schedule, so don't be surprised to see 3 or 4 events in some
Upon first joining the team, we expect you to make most of the training events.
Once you have a handle on the basics, it is acceptable to miss a couple of drills, as
long as you keep your skills sharp and do your best for all real call outs.
> I live in New York City and do not keep a car here. Am I required to drive and/or own a car?
No, it's not an absolute requirement but not having access to a car 24/7 is a serious
hinderance to being on the team. Many of the locations we train in do not have adequate
public transportation and our activations generally require us to respond as quickly as
possible, often in the middle of the night or very early morning.
Without a vehicle, it is very difficult to arrive in a timely fashion.
> Dear NYSAR,
> I live in NYC and have always been interested in getting involved in search
> and rescue. I was wondering if you could give some information, such as what
> it requires (certifications, etc.), and what I could do to begin the process
> of getting involved.
> Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you,
Good question with a rather long winded answer.
To start with, there are several different types of Search & Rescue
- Woodland / Wild land Search & Rescue
- Mountain Search & Rescue
- Water Search & Rescue (includes diving)
- Urban Search & Rescue (includes confined space rescue)
- Combat Search & Rescue
- Cave Search & Rescue
The first two types are the most common for the average person to get
involved with. Before I get into them, let me briefly explain the others.
Water Search & Rescue (including dive rescue) is primarily a government
sponsored event, as it requires a lot of training and expensive equipment.
This is typically done from boat or helicopter but can sometimes be done from
shore using rope equipment.
Urban Search & Rescue is also typically a government sponsored event as it
is people and equipment intensive. Generally, all team members need to be EMT's
(or higher) and there is a lot of engineering involved. FEMA Task Forces travel
with about two shipping containers full of equipment and the equipment cost alone
is over 1.8 million dollars.
[FEMA USAR info]
Combat Search & Rescue is a military specialty that combines wilderness,
mountain and water Search & Rescue skills, with a combat arms skill. Very high
[CNN Article on Air Force PJ's]
Cave Search & Rescue involves most of the same skills as Mountain Search
& Rescue except that it occurs in pitch black caves, which are often cold, muddy
and wet environments. Definately not for those afraid of the dark or
Getting back to the first two, Mountain Search & Rescue and wilderness
Search & Rescue, these are the two types that "average" people become involved
with--primarily for the higher need.
Mountain Search & Rescue occurs in mountainous regions where a greater
emphasis is placed on technical equipment and knowledge, including ropes and
cold weather survival gear. It also requires a lot of stamina and a high
degree of skill.
Wilderness Search & Rescue is generally looking for a lost person in
wooded areas, which may or may not be mountainous. Granted, all this is a
little oversimplified but gives you a general understanding of the various
Search & Rescue specialties.
Also, there is a lot of crossover in the fields. Many searchers are cross
trained in water rescue and have many of the cave and mountain rescue skills,
although they generally are not as well honed as those teams that specialize
in those specific environments.
As far as certifications go, they vary from specialty to specialty.
Some of the more common ones found in Wilderness Search & Rescue are:
First Aid, CPR, Blood-borne Pathogen training, Basic / Introduction to Search
and Rescue, Basic Wilderness Land Navigation (compass), NYS Department of
Environmental Conservation Basic Search & Rescue, Incident Command System I /
II / III, NASAR SAR Tech I / II / II, Introduction to communications, HAM radio
operations, Advanced Land Navigation, Introduction to Rope Rescue, Low Angle
Slope Evacuation, Rappelling, Introduction to Tracking, High Angle Rescue,
Certified First Responder (medical), EMT, and Managing the Search Operation.
Did I lose you yet? Obviously, there is a lot of training that's involved
in Search & Rescue but that does not mean you have to complete all these
(and there are more classes than I listed) before you can participate in some
For example, even though I have most of the above listed qualifications,
I do not have many medical qualifications, such as EMT. Does that mean I'm not
useful? Obviously, I'm very useful within the scope of my training.
So, you're still wondering how to get involved. You've already taken the
first steps by contacting your local team and asking how to get involved.
New York Search & Rescue is primarily a Wilderness Search & Rescue Team,
although most of our members have affiliations through various "professional"
emergency services organizations (police, fire, medical and military.)
We welcome trained and untrained people alike, as long as you're willing
to complete the training. If you're willing to learn, we're willing to teach.
We often work with neighboring teams (such as New Jersey Search and Rescue)
and attend their training events. And if there is enough call for it, we will
have a class for those that need it.
Understand, too, that there is virtually zero need for our services in NYC
as most Search & Rescue events are effectively handled by the NYPD within
2 hours. It often takes longer than that just for our team members to arrive
at a location.
If you haven't been scared off by everything and are still interested in
joining, we'll send you an application. Just drop us a line or give us a call.
See also Wikipedia: Search and Rescue.
> How come your contact telephone numbers are in three different area codes in
> two different states?
We have learned that an emergency effecting one area can sometimes leave
phone lines inoperable. For this reason, we have chosen to spread out our
contact numbers into regions that are not closely related, as far as phone
service is concerned.
Internally, we have various means of alerting team members of an activation
which do not all rely on local telephone service.
> Can you explain a little more detail on the application? Why do you need
> so much information?
Our application is designed to give us a fair amount of information about
each applicant, including strengths, weaknesses and skills. We need this
information help decide what you are and are not capable of.
Other questions are necessary due to the sesitive nature of search and
rescue work or to help us understand where you might fit best in the
organization. Even a homebound person can be of assistance to the team.
If you have any specific questions, please call us and we will do our best
to answer them.
New York Search & Rescue does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex,
religion, national origin, sexual orientation, physical disability or age.
> I have a 2 year old labrador retreiver that would be great for search and
> rescue work. Can you train her?
Search & Rescue training, especially with K9's, involves A LOT of time.
If you're interested in training your K9 for SAR work, you have to be prepared
to spend a couple of hours EVERY DAY until a working level is reached. Even
then, you need to spend several hours a week over several days to keep the
Understand, too, that not every dog is suitable for this type of work.
We can help evaluate your K9 for training but it's always best to start training
your K9 from a very young age. Minimum age is six months and maximum age is 3 years.
We have a group of canines that meet regularly but our ability to train K9's
is very limited as we only have a couple of members qualified to do K9
training and their time is extremely limited. If you're really interested in
getting involved in K9 search and rescue work, and can handle the training hours
(you have to be flexible in working around the instructor's schedule), we can
teach you what you'll need to know and will help guide you towards other quality
training for your K9.
More information on this topic can be viewed at this site.
> I'm 15 years old and really want to get involved on a search and rescue team.
> How can I join?
New York Search and Rescue does not accept persons under 18 years of age.
However, there are organizations that do. The Civil Air Patrol has units all over
the country and they have a search and rescue training track that you can get
involved in. Additionally, some Boy Scout Explorer Posts are involved with
search and rescue teams, police departments and fire departments. You can reach
out to those organizations to begin training with their program.
Our team does encouage family participation in training, though. If we are
training in an unrestricted area (non military facility or certain government
facilities) family members are encouraged to attend. This allows the family to
better understand what kind of work we do and how important that job is. Often,
the minor children of team members will act as 'subjects' for our rescuers, which
allows some patricipation. Unfortunately, we cannot allow non family member minors
> What's the best way to get started doing search and rescue as a career?
The vast majority of search and rescue personnel are not paid for their services.
This is true throught the entire country. However, there are a few places where
personnel do get paid, mainly out west. In New York, the only ones who get paid for
search and rescue related work are some police officers (the NYS Dept of Environmental
Conservation is one example) and some fire fighters. The military also has a few search
and rescue programs in various branches.
New York Search and Rescue personnel are not paid for their services with the team,
although the team is comprised mainly of off duty police, fire, medical and military
personnel, who give freely of their limited off duty time, in an effort to save lives.
Our suggestion for those looking for a paid assinment in New York is to join a
police department, fire department or ambulance company and see where they fit into the
search and rescue field in your area.
No response to e-mail
> I had a question for the team and sent you an e-mail. How come nobody has gotten back to me?
New York Search and Rescue receives A LOT of e-mail, often well over 300 a week, with various inquiries and 'offers.' Unfortunately, we cannot respond to every inquiry we get.
However, we do try respond to most of them. Sometimes we cannot respond due to the following reasons:
- Your e-mail got picked up in our SPAM filter
- Your e-mail had no signature
- Your e-mail had no contact phone number
- Your e-mail contained an unsolicited attachment
Also, the e-mail is not read on a daily basis and it sometimes takes us a while to get back to people due to other commitments.
If you feel your e-mail has been overlooked, please try again keeping the above items in mind.
Updated 02 April 2007
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