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Field Guide for Palouse/Clearwater Search & Rescue Members - page 6 / 7

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When you are assigned to a team, be sure that your name appears on the Team Assignment Sheet that is kept in Base Camp.

If you drive a vehicle to a search, keep track of your mileage.  The SAR Council reports resource usage, including searcher time, vehicle miles, and other resource (e.g. dog, horse, snowmobile…) hours.

B. Overhead Team - Search Management

The group of people directing, planning, and supplying the search are known as the Overhead Team or Search Management Team.  These people have been trained in search theory and deployment of resources.  The person ultimately in charge is the Incident Commander (IC).  Different people may have the IC position as the search progresses and fresh people replace tired ones.

C. Team Formation and Team Leaders

Ground teams are formed on the bases of the training and experience of available members.  A team is just that, a team, with all that the word implies.  There is no room for individual heroics on a search team.  Such actions can put team members into serious jeopardy, making the team part of the problem rather than the solution.  An Overhead Team member assigns people to teams based upon his/her knowledge of the searcher's training and abilities.  Friendship is rarely considered when assigning team members.  Instead, the Overhead Team is concerned with getting teams into the field as rapidly as practicable.

Although Team Leaders have received special training, they do not have the final say in the team's decision making process.  Decisions are made by the team, with the leader offering valuable judgement and expertise.

D. Types of Search

1. Wilderness Search

This is the most common search that PCSAR conducts.  Ground teams are sent into areas where the subject is thought to be.  These areas are often rugged, with downed trees to impede the searchers' progress, steep hills to make the job physically demanding, and cold weather with precipitation to sap searchers' energy.  The currently favored search technique is "purposeful wandering" as described below.  Although teams should be prepared for a stay of up to 48 hours, we have been fortunate that most searches (or at least team assignments) are less than four hours.

2. Urban Searches

Urban searches do not involve rugged territory, but usually involves a larger area to cover.  Clues (e.g. footprints) may be harder to find, but more witnesses to the subject's movements may exist.  A careful canvass of the area where the subject was last seen can turn up someone who saw the subject, including the direction of travel.  In most cases, the canvass of the area will have been done by law enforcement, but when you are out searching, be sure to ask the people you see if they have seen the subject.  You may be fortunate to have a picture of the subject – show it to passers by

and describe the subject's clothing.

Urban search subjects include lost children, elderly, and disoriented people.  Alzheimer's patients comprise a large part of the elderly "walkaways".  The movements of this type of patient are hard to anticipate because of the nature of the subject's thought processes.  Also, when found, these patients might be combative or react in unexpected ways.  The subject's medical and mental state should be part of the briefing; if you do not receive this information be sure to ask for it.

VI. Search Methods

A ground team's search procedure depends upon the situation.  The briefing should include the type of search method to be used.  The methods range from fast sweeps that cover a lot of ground but are not intensive to slow, painstaking searches.  In all search types, remember to occasionally look behind you.  It seems that many clues are found that way.

A. Hasty Search

This type of search is typically used early in the search when the subject is thought to have followed trails or roads.  The search team of three or four follows a trail or road at top speed, searching for clues like footprints.  Team members do not walk on the trail or road, but parallel to it in order to preserve clues.  Team members call for the subject as they go.  The area searched is usually just the trail or road and a few feet or yards to each side.

When a clue is found, the team informs Base Camp.

B. Purposeful Wandering

This type of search is an upgrade from the grid search that appears in the movies in which 50 people line up and move through the woods.  Rather than walking parallel tracks along a search sweep path, the team of three to six searchers covers an area delineated by landmarks, often not a road or trail, specified during the briefing.  The team may make several parallel passes (sweeps) through the area.  The team member at one end of the line guides the team from the known landmarks, while the member on the other end marks the extent of the sweep with flagging tape.  The width of the sweep is adjusted so that there is an overlap of the areas that adjacent members search.  Members call for the subject, and they talk with each other to make sure that they are overlapping their searching and that the team is progressing at about the same rate along the sweep path.  Multiple sweeps are done until the assigned area has been searched.

To cover the designated area, often 20 to 50 feet wide, each searcher's path goes from side to side.  Open areas require less zigzagging than brushy areas that need more thorough investigation.  If a clue is found, the team stops and reports to Base Camp.  Once Base Camp has reacted to the clue, the team continues.

C. Tight Grid Search

PCSAR Field Guide August 2011Page 6

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