Flexibility: Low

Social Engagement: Medium

What’s What: Are you inspired by stories about searches for missing hikers or stranded mountain climbers? Are you in good physical shape and willing to work outside at all times of the year? Would you like the satisfaction of working with a trained team to help others? If so, you might be interested in becoming a Search and Rescue volunteer.

Amava Take: There are more than 1500 Search and Rescue (SAR) teams in the US. Some Search and Rescue teams have paid employees, but many communities have volunteer SAR teams. These teams might help police search the area for a missing child, or help Red Cross teams assist flood victims. Or they might help authorities recover victims from a major fire or other natural disaster. While many SAR jobs are out in the wilderness, not all SAR jobs are rural, and not all of them demand mountaineering skills. In fact, many of these jobs take place in cities–and there are urban SAR teams. So even if you live in a big city, you can often volunteer. If you are familiar with the area you live in, want to help people, have a sense of adventure, and are willing to go through a training program, you could be a valuable search and rescue volunteer.

From the Front Office:

What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these jobs?

People who are in good physical shape who have outdoor experience, and who are willing to undergo training and want to give back to the community.

Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?

Be ready for an extensive training process before you are able to go out and work with a team.

What’s a typical daily schedule like?

These positions are on-call and do not have regular hours. Often you can have a long time between jobs, but then long, grueling days on the few days when you are needed. However, some SAR teams also assist their communities with disaster preparation and this can be a way to help on a more regular schedule.

From the Trenches:

What’s the most satisfying part of the job?

Learning that the person your team has been looking for is safe!

How would you describe the hard parts?

Besides the fact that the physical search can sometimes be grueling, some of the searches don’t end up with a positive outcome, and that can be devastating to people on the search team.  

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about doing this work?

Before applying to join your local SAR team, get to know the people first. Talk with someone on that team and get your questions answered. Typically volunteers have to go through a lengthy training process, so make sure you understand what you are signing up for up front.

Special Requirements: Each SAR organization has its own specific requirements, so you should contact the team in your area to find out their needs.  Often those who apply to become SAR volunteers have a lot of experience in the outdoors, or other needed skills such as medical experience, but this is not necessarily a requirement.

Related Classes: Handling Medical Emergencies, Interpersonal Communication, Keys to Effective Communication, Skills for Making Great Decisions

Finding a Position: In many counties, the local Sheriff’s department is responsible for maintaining a Search and Rescue team, so that’s a good place to start. Just contact the Sheriff’s office or other local law enforcement in your area and ask them who oversees SAR and how you can participate. Another place to look is the State Search and Rescue Coordinators Council. You can use this SSARCC map to search for SAR organizations in your state. You can also look to the Red Cross  and FEMA for volunteer opportunities both in the U.S and abroad.