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Search and Rescue Merit Badge

Search and Rescue Merit Badge

Search and Rescue Merit Badge – Imagine the concern a parent or loved one has when a teenager is overdue from a hike in the wilderness, a small child is missing from a crowded playground, a rock climber becomes stranded on a precarious ledge, or an elderly person wanders away from a caregiver.

These occurrences happen several hundred times each year and often may require the services of trained search and rescue (SAR) managers and teams.

While many people are able to self-evacuate from remote areas thanks to advances in technology such as cell phones, GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers, and personal locator devices, people still get injured and lost.

A search and rescue mission is much like solving a classic mystery. Once a person (called the subject) is reported missing, law enforcement officials activate search teams. The following procedure then takes place:

  1. An incident commander is appointed to run the search and rescue operation using what is called the Incident Command System (ICS).
  2. An Incident Action Plan (IAP) is developed to guide the searchers as they look for the subject.
  3. The incident commander and his or her staff decide which kind of teams to deploy. These could be ground, horse, dog, ATV, snowmobile, mountain bike, or even aircraft teams.
  4. Teams are deployed to search for the subject using a variety of search and rescue skills.
  5. If all goes well, the subject is located and returned to safety. As you read this pamphlet and work on this merit badge. you will learn and practice many skills that may someday help save a life!

Be aware that earning the Search and Rescue merit badge will not qualify you as a trained searcher. You should never attempt a search or rescue on your own.

If you find yourself confronted with a missing person situation, remain calm and immediately report the situation to a Scout leader, parent, or responsible adult.

If these people are not immediately available, promptly call 911 and report the missing person’s emergency to the authorities.

Search and Rescue Merit Badge Requirements

  1. Do the following:
    • Explain to your counselor the hazards you are most likely to encounter while participating in search and rescue (SAR) activities, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
    • Discuss first aid and prevention for the types of injuries or illnesses that could occur while participating in SAR activities, including; snakebites, dehydration, shock, environmental emergencies such as hypothermia or heatstroke, blisters, and ankle and knee sprains.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge to stay found and prevent yourself from becoming the subject of a SAR mission.
    • How does the buddy system help in staying found and safe?
    • How can knowledge of the area and its seasonal weather changes affect your plans?
    • Explain how the Ten Essentials are similar to a “ready pack.”
  3. Discuss the following with your counselor:
    • The difference between search and rescue
    • The difference between PLS (place last seen) and LKP (last known point)
    • The meaning of these terms:
      • AFRCC (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center)
      • IAP (Incident Action Plan)
      • ICS (Incident Command System)
      • Evaluating search urgency
      • Establishing confinement
      • Scent item
      • Area air scent dog
      • Briefing and debriefing
  4. Find out who in your area has authority for search and rescue and what their responsibilities are. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain the official duties of a search and rescue team.
  5. Working with your counselor, become familiar with the Incident Command System. You may use any combination of resource materials, such as printed or online. Discuss with your counselor how features of the ICS compare with Scouting’s patrol method. (See ICS-100 online training)
  6. Identify four types of search and rescue teams and discuss their use or role with your counselor. Then do the following:
    • Interview a member of one of the teams you have identified above, and learn how this team contributes to a search and rescue operation. Discuss what you learned with your counselor.
    • Describe the process and safety methods of working around at least two of the specialized SAR teams you identified above.
    • Explain the differences between wilderness, urban, and water SARs.
  7. Discuss the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system, latitude, and longitude. Then do the following:
    • Using a 1:24,000 scale USGS topographic map, show that you can identify a location of your choice using UTM coordinates.
    • Using a 1:24,000 scale map, ask your counselor to give you a UTM coordinate on the map, then identify that location.
    • Show that you can identify your current location using the UTM coordinates on a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and verify it on a 1:24,000 scale map.
    • Determine a hypothetical place last seen, and point out an area on your map that could be used for containment using natural or human-made boundaries.
  8. Choose a hypothetical scenario, either one presented in this merit badge pamphlet or one created by your counselor. Then do the following:
    • Complete an incident objectives form for this scenario.
    • Complete an Incident Action Plan (IAP) to address this scenario.
    • Discuss with your counselor the behavior of a lost person and how that would impact your incident action plan (for example, the differences between searching for a young child versus a teen).
    • After completing 8a-8c, discuss the hypothetical scenario with your counselor.
  9. Discuss with your counselor the terms hasty team and hasty search. Then do the following:
    • Plan and carry out a practice hasty search (either urban or wilderness) for your patrol or troop. Include the following elements in the search: clue awareness, evidence preservation, tracking the subject, and locating the subject using attraction or trail sweep.
    • When it’s over, hold a team debriefing to discuss the hasty search. Discuss problems encountered, successful and unsuccessful tactics, and ideas for improvement.
  10. Find out about three career or volunteer opportunities in search and rescue. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this professional or volunteer position. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this position might interest you.

What is Search and Rescue?

What is Search and Rescue?

A search is an emergency situation requiring a team of trained searchers to locate a missing person. The search may be brief and simple, such as finding a missing child who is sleeping in his parent’s car, or it may involve hundreds of searchers and days of coordinated, well-managed activity.

Rescue is an emergency situation where a person’s location is known, perhaps having just been found by searchers-and he or she must be removed from danger and returned to safety.

This may involve simply walking the person along a trail or it may require technical rescue skills and medical care.

The term search and rescue (SAR) is used because rescues are often required after the person is found. Frequently the same people are trained to do both functions-search for the subject and then treat and remove the subject.

Who Does Search and Rescue?

Who Does Search and Rescue?

When a friend, fellow Scout, child, family member, or community member is missing, we expect that there will be well-trained, caring people who will search for, possibly rescue, and bring that person to safety.

Members of search and rescue teams are nearly all volunteers, although some may be Forest Service, Coast Guard, or fire and rescue workers, or members of other agencies.

Staff members at Scouting high-adventure bases, including Philmont Scout Ranch, are also trained in SAR.

There are a number of organizations that play a major role in search and rescue efforts in the United States and some foreign countries.

The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center serves as the single agency responsible for coordinating land-based federal SAR activities in the 48 contiguous states. It also provides assistance in Mexico and Canada.

Search and rescue is one of the United States Coast Guard’s oldest missions. Coast Guard SAR response involves multimission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats linked by communications networks. The Coast Guard is the maritime SAR coordinator and is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field of search and rescue

The U.S. Forest Service, national and state parks, Homeland Security and its Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, State Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Civil Air Patrol (CAP). and many other agencies are involved in search and rescue.

There is even a national SAR plan available online. Check the resources section for links to agency websites.

The governors of each state decide which state or local agency has responsibility for search and rescue activities within their borders. The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA), National Ski Patrol, dive teams, cave rescue groups, and four-wheel drive clubs all stand ready to assist with SAR as well.

Here are a few sample questions:

  • Who is in charge of the SAR team mission?
  • How long does it take to train a search dog?
  • What is the best kind of dog for SAR?
  • What kind of technology is involved in SAR?
  • How old do you have to be to be on a team?
  • How often does the team go on a SAR mission?

All About of SAR

All About of SAR

Search and rescue, much like Scouting, has its own unique language. In order to understand search and rescue, it is necessary to know some of the most common terminology and how SAR operations are structured.

Incident Command

1. Incident Command System

The Incident Command System (ICS) is a systematic approach to the management of emergency incidents. Used by fire departments, emergency medical services, law enforcement agencies, and search and rescue teams to manage all types of emergencies.

This system is flexible and scalable to all types and sizes of incidents and events. ICS is the most effective, efficient, and economical system to manage search and rescue incidents.

The Incident Command System uses five key concepts.

a. Unity of Command

Unity of command refers to the concept that each person or resource responding to a scene reports to only one supervisor. This eliminates the potential for individuals to receive conflicting orders from multiple supervisors.

Unity of command increases accountability, prevents resources from working without the knowledge of command, improves the flow of information, and enhances operational safety. This concept is fundamental to the ICS chain of command structure.

b. Common Terminology

In the past, individual agencies or teams developed their own terminology. This often led to confusion when groups worked together, as some words or codes had different meanings for each group.

The ICS requires that all agencies responding to an incident use common terminology and clear language during radio communications. This means, for example, responding “Affirmative” rather than “10-4” to indicate understanding.

ICS has an associated glossary of terms to bring consistency to position titles, resource descriptions, and organizational structure.

c. Management by Objective

Incidents are managed by setting and working toward specific objectives. Objectives should be ranked by priority, as specific as possible, attainable, and if possible given a working time frame.

Objectives are accomplished by first outlining strategies (general plans of action), then determining appropriate tactics (how the strategy will be executed) for the chosen strategy.

d. Flexible and Modular Organization

ICS is organized so that it can grow or shrink as the incident dictates. The command is established from the top-down, with the most important positions, such as incident commander, established first.

Only those positions that are required need to be filled. Most incidents will require that only a few positions be filled. However, as the incident grows and more resources are required, more positions may need to be added.

e. Span of Control

The concept of a manageable span of control limits the number of resources and responsibilities that are managed by a single supervisor.

The ICS requires that any single person’s span of control should be from three to seven individuals, with an optimal number of five but no more than seven.

If more than seven resources are being managed by an individual, the command structure needs to be expanded by adding new command positions.

Good management in search and rescue requires capable people knowing what to do at all levels, each with a clear picture of the incident command structure. 

This is why everyone involved in a search and rescue operation must have basic knowledge of the Incident Command System. 

Everyone knows his or her position within the overall structure and must understand the terms and functional titles used. 

After all, what good does it do to call a person an incident commander if no one really knows what that means?

2. Incident Command Positions

The ICS is organized by levels, with the supervisor of each level holding a specific title.

The incident commander (IC) provides overall leadership for the incident response and delegates authority to others in his or her command. 

The incident commander performs all command responsibilities until he or she assigns people to those positions, establishes the incident objectives, and directs the development of the Incident Action Plan (IAP), a set of documents that call for details about the search and rescue. 

The incident commander typically has training and certification, as well as experience in multiple positions within the ICS.

There are three types of incident command.

a. Single incident command

This is the most common type of incident command. A single individual is designated as the incident commander and has the sole responsibility for the incident.

b. Unified command

A unified command is often used for larger incidents when multiple agencies are involved. A unified command usually has one representative from each agency involved; these representatives act together as a single entity for the command.

c. Area command

During multiple-incident situations, such as a large wildland fire or natural disaster, an area command may be established.

The area commanders provide for incident command at separate locations. In this case, they typically manage resources and do not establish objectives. or develop TAPS (Incident Action Plans)

3. Command Staff

An Incident Command System enables integrated communication and planning by establishing a manageable span of control. An ICS divides an emergency response into five manageable functions essential for emergency response operations:

Command, Operations, Planning. Logistics, and Finance and Administration. This chart shows a typical ICS structure.

The command staff consists of the safety officer, public information officer, and liaison officer. These officers report directly to the incident commander and may have assistants in major incidents.

Safety officer – The safety officer monitors the safety of all responders and bystanders and gives safety messages at planning meetings and briefings.

Public information officer -The public information officer (PIO) provides information to the public including media and government officials.

Liaison officer – A liaison serves as the primary contact for supporting agencies involved in the incident.

4. General Staff

The general staff is made up of the operations, planning, logistics, and finance/administration section chiefs.

Operations section chief -The operations section chief is tasked with determining tactics and supervising resources to meet the incident objectives.

Planning section chief – The planning section chief is responsible for collecting, evaluating, and disseminating incident information, developing and documenting the IAP (Incident Action Plan); and leading the planning meeting.

Logistics section chief – The logistics section chief provides facilities, services, and material support for the incident. 

Finance/Administration section chief -The finance/administration section chief is tasked with all administrative and financial considerations surrounding an incident. This is the least used section.

Safety First

Before searchers go into the field, some thought must be given to their and their fellow team members’ personal safety. It does the subject no good if the search is delayed because a team member gets injured.

The physical condition of the searchers and their equipment and the suitability of their clothing must be checked by the safety officer or team leader.

There will also be an environmental briefing describing possible hazards and weather conditions the searchers are likely to encounter.

1. Staying Found

For more than a century, Scouting has taught young people and adults the skills needed to safely enjoy the outdoors.

Scouts who read the Boy Scout Handbook and Fieldbook and practice good hiking and camping principles will become proficient outdoorsmen.

As you progress in earning this merit badge, you will learn more about skills that are important for search and rescue. Here are some pointers to keep from becoming the subject of a search and rescue.

  • Always have a trip plan and share it with your parents.
  • Stick to your trip plan.
  • Know what the weather is like where you going and be aware of how quickly the weather can change.
  • Never hike or camp alone; go with your patrol or troop.
  • Use the buddy system.
  • Have proper gear and clothing and take care of it Log into trailhead log sheets if available.
  • Get and stay in top physical condition: be prepared for the level of activity planned.

If your plans must change while on an outing, be sure to alert your parents. Call ahead to your destination if someone is expecting you.

And finally, discuss safety and good decision-making with all the members of your patrol and troop. Get everyone’s agreement to be safe and prepared.

After you discover how search and rescue missions for lost people are reported in your area, discuss the procedure with your parents.

Post the phone number of the local agency responsible for search and rescue along with other emergency telephone numbers.

2. First Aid

Searchers should also be prepared to handle some typical first-aid situations that may arise, including snakebites, dehydration, shock, environmental emergencies such as hypothermia or heatstroke, blisters, and ankle and knee sprains.

You can check in pamphlet or in article first aid.

3. Gear and Clothing

Search team members are called out on very short notice, so having a pack ready to go, called a ready pack, is important.

The kind of clothing and gear a team member must have is dictated by the climate in the area. Most search teams require their members to have sufficient clothing and gear to enable them to stay in the field for at least 24 hours.

List for clothing :

  • Sturdy hiking boots.
  • Sturdy work gloves.
  • Headcover(s)
  • Gloves and/or mittens.
  • Socks and sock liners (and extras).
  • The inner layer of basic underwear and long underwear* (bottoms and top).
  • Middle layers(s) for warmth (pants* and shirt).
  • Outer layer for wind and water protection (bottoms and top with hood).

(Waterproof/breathable clothing is recommended. Items marked with an asterisk should be made of wool or a warm synthetic fabric. Remember: “Cotton kills.”)

List for Gear :

  • Pack or container to carry/hold the required gear and clothing
  • Eye protection (such as sunglasses or goggles)
  • Food for 24 hours (should be high in caloric content and able to sustain your energy over a long period of time)
  • Water (2 quarts minimum)
  • Swiss Army knife or Leatherman multitool type knife (one that has several blades and other attachments)
  • Firestarter.
  • Compass with 5-degree accuracy.
  • Map of the search area.
  • Whistle.
  • Two light sources (flashlight and/or headlamp, plus extra batteries and replacement bulbs).
  • Personal first-aid kit.
  • Space blanket.
  • Pencil or pen and waterproof paper.
  • 20 feet of 1-inch tubular nylon webbing.

The following items are optional:

  • Tools needed for particular functions such as navigation, record keeping, marking, and communication.
  • Subject find and stabilization supplies, such as basic first-aid equipment and an extra space blanket to keep the subject warm; these can be based on weather and availability of medical services.
  • Safety equipment, generally including an ANSI Class 2 vest and other equipment required by the command team.

maybe it’s enough to end our discussion about the search and rescue merit badges, to complete other answers you can check the pamphlet.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!