Search and rescue (SAR) is the art of finding lost people and bringing them to safety. Most search and rescue teams are made up of volunteers coordinated by the local sheriff's department or police agency. SAR mostly takes place in rural areas after people become lost or go down in plane crashes. If you are lost in a rural area and they know about it, SAR will come looking for you. Make their job easier by staying put (especially if you are near a vehicle!) and making signals that can be seen from the air or by ground searchers. To improve your chances of being found, make sure someone knows what your plans are and where you are going so that they can notify SAR if you fail to return.

The Coast Guard is responsible for maritime SAR in the United States. There is a specialization of SAR called urban search and rescue or USAR which focuses on heavy rescue of trapped and entombed people following earthquakes and other disasters.

The National Association for Search and Rescue has an online database. They are a:
non-profit membership association comprised of thousands of dedicated paid and non-paid professionals - all active or interested in search and rescue, disaster aid, emergency medicine and awareness education. We are a self-supporting, non-profit association acting as the country's "admirable servant" in furthering the advancement of professional, literary and scientific knowledge and training in these fields. We are interested in all aspects of search and rescue - the humanitarian cause of saving lives - throughout the United States and around the world.
"...that others may live."

Their primary goals are to integrate the many and varied associations of search and rescue by actively working toward the development of coordination of skills equipment, information and money toward the relief and aid in suffering by furthering the total integration of emergency response,as well as a rescue and recovery system between federal, state, local, and volunteer groups in the United States.

Code of Ethics:

As a member of the National Association for Search and Rescue, I acknowledge and commit to honor to the best of my ability the following values:

  • THAT I have a moral obligation to the missing or injured and to the agencies, volunteer organizations and other NASAR members with whom I work. I shall endeavor to guard their interests honestly and deal with them fairly, wisely and in an efficient, proper manner. I shall behave honestly in all matters, respect privileged communication, avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest and deal with others courteously and politely.

  • THAT I shall continuously work to raise the standards of performance of search and rescue to the highest attainable levels without regard to race, sex, religion, cultural background, sexual preference, economic, or social condition in service to humanity.

  • THAT I have an obligation to advance the knowledge and skills of search and rescue so that I can serve the needs of the missing or injured. I shall strive to improve my own knowledge and skills; support others by sharing my experiences; and strive to keep myself fully informed of new developments in the profession.

  • THAT I shall support the mission of the National Association for Search and Rescue, "...that others may live", and shall at all times conduct myself in an ethical and prudent manner worthy of my profession. My signature below constitutes my personal affirmation responsibly to discharge these obligations.

Depending on the environment, search and rescue organizations use various ways to accomplish their goals from satellites and dog tracking to aircraft and boats.

In 1990 the U.S. Coast Guard reported 205 hoaxes and since then there has been a steady increase in the number of hoaxes perpetuated every year. Hoaxes for kicks that uses valuable resources and take away time and efforts of aid that are needed for real emergencies. The penalties for perpetuating a hoax are:

  • 6 years in prison
  • $250,000 criminal fine
  • $5,000 civil fine
  • Reimbursing the U.S. Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.

Personal Note: My father participated in the search and rescue efforts of the USS Edmund Fitzgerald while we were stationed at Kincheloe AFB near Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. His job was refueling the searching aircraft, as well as searching in a KC-135 Tanker. Private and military sorties flew in a cooperative effort for several days over Lake Superior looking for wreckage, there was nothing to report other than a small oil slick left of the ill-fated freighter and crew.

Sinking a little over 25 years ago with all 29 hands missing, in 1975 news of the disaster didn't appear in the newspapers until two days later and was quickly forgotten until the hauntingly popular ballad by Gordon Lightfoot,The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.



U. S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue:

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