There are many specialized sub-categories of search and rescue, based upon the terrain to be covered, and conditions of the rescue to be attempted. These categories include:
Ground search and rescue – involves searching on land or inland waterways, and uses search and
rescue dogs. Ground SAR helps to locate persons with autism, alzheimers, and dementia, and may
include searching urban areas, but is not considered urban SAR.
Urban search and rescue (US & R) – is also called heavy urban SAR (HUSAR), and is locating
and rescuing persons from collapsed buildings or other building entrapments located in cities, or
urban areas. This team includes police officers, fire and emergency departments, and hospital
personnel. Most US & R responders have specialized training in the structural collapse of buildings,
dangers involved with live electrical wires, broken gas lines, and hazards characteristic of
earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks.
Combat search and rescue (CSAR) – is conducted during war, within or near combat zones and on
battlefields to find and rescue soldiers and military personnel.
Mountain rescue – is also known as the mountain rescue association (MRA), and the team searches
for persons, lost or stranded specifically in rugged, mountainous terrain. Snow skiers, avalanche
victims, lost or injured hikers, mountain climbers, or aircrafts that have crashed, or are otherwise
stranded, with passengers who are injured.
Air-search and rescue (ASR) – is the search for or rescue of those stranded at sea, due to
malfunction of boat, ship, or aircraft. The ASR uses flying boats, floatplanes, amphibious and non
-amphibious helicopters equipped with hoists, and surface vessels to locate and save passengers of
aircrafts downed at sea, sailors of downed ships, and passengers of sea vessels in distress.
Search and rescuers must be in good health, 18 years of age, and to be on a specific team, must be trained, and pass a certification exam. Training for field deployment usually lasts six months, and meets four hours per week. Instruction is in learning to use equipment and resources provided, radio communications equipment, rules and regulations for radio communications, determining distances on maps, field note taking, evidence finding and clues, tracking movement, ropes and knots, how K-9 teams are used as complimentary team members, and team definitions and responsibilities. Agencies which provide specialized training for interested individuals, are the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR), the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA), and the United States National Fire Protection Association (NEPA).
Using whatever resources are at their disposal, search and rescue teams assist in disasters, to locate and save lost, missing, or desperate persons in imminent danger, either because of accident, natural disaster, or impairment. These responders have very difficult tasks to complete, and often donate their time and effort in order to save someone’s life. It is important to them, and they meet or often exceed the standards required by training. The National Association of Volunteer Search and Rescue Teams (NAVSAR) provides a support network for the nation’s search and rescuers. They do a sometimes impossible job to locate and save many people in terrible danger, often risking their own lives.