This is how a “typical” SAR starts:
1. Predictably when people go missing, no one is really worried until it is dark out. Once you add the element of darkness to factors such as:
· failing to come home as expected
· failing to answer the phone
· failing to be home for dinner
…the family/significant other will call 911.
2. The police/park ranger/emergency responder will be dispatched to the scene and take look around. They do a fast and efficient search (which often results in a find ending the process).
3. If they do not make a quick find, responders will typically do one of the following:
· Wait on the search and do a larger investigation – something’s fishy
· Wait to start any action until daylight – It is easier to find something when you can see it
· Get more searchers on scene ASAP – the person needs immediate help due to health/weather/etc.
4. Once the emergency responder decides that they need additional help they will notify their dispatcher who will send out a request for additional resources. Depending on the scenario, they may call for one or all of the following:
· Others within the initial responder’s agency
· Other nearby government agencies with a memorandum of understanding
· Resources from a number of local approved volunteer SAR teams (like Maryland Search and Rescue)
5. Maryland Search and Rescue gets the call at 3 AM. Well, not always at 3 AM, but usually. Why 3 AM?
· Like you can see above, the initial responder(s) get on scene after dark/after dinner, they do preliminary searches and interviews and then call for additional resources.
· Those SAR resources either need to be there to search ASAP, or to be sent out into the field at first light. Either way, we wake up to that phone call, figure out who will be responding, and coordinate rides to the search.
· We then drive to the missing person’s home, the last place they were seen, a local church, the local fire department, or wherever the SAR can be conveniently managed.
6. MSAR members drive through the night and arrive to the Search.
· MSAR members sign in at base and wait to be deployed into the field
· If there is time we get a little sleep before search operations start in the morning
Next time I will discuss: What it is like on a SAR mission