SAR is one of the few emergency services professions that are staffed almost completely by volunteers.  SAR is also a complex job that is made up of many perishable skills.  If you treat it like a hobby that you can pick up and drop at your whim, then you will eventually get burned (and take your team, the missing person and their families with you).

Perishable skills require constant training and recertification, and that is part of what defines SAR as a professional volunteer career.  We intend to help you keep your perishable skills fresh so that each community, including yours and mine are serviced by professional SAR Volunteers, not weekend hobbyists.

Treat SAR as a Volunteer Career Path

Most SAR responders start as ground searchers, then they find an interest and branch out into that specialty as a secondary skill set (i.e. dog handler, technical rescue, mounted, ATV, management, etc.).  So it makes sense that we provide you an obvious set of courses and certifications that support this typical career path.  We are working on building a mini-map for you of how these courses and certifications relate to each other.

We are also building some new courses to support your volunteer SAR career path.  You used to top out at SARTECH I/Crewleader III.  In June we are introducing a new certification, the SARTECH Crewleader II certification which builds on the SARTECH I.  We are also starting up a new series of certifications called RESCUETECH.  These certifications are being built right now and the RESCUETECH II certification will be available in June!

Continually Increase Quality of Programs, Information, Evaluators, Instructors, NASAR Leadership

NASAR is going through a reorganization of how we approach certification, education, and professional development.  We now have a Professional Development Division with a member of the association voluntarily staffing the position of Director.  I asked Jerry Whaley from Ohio to take the position of Director, Professional Development, and he accepted.  Jerry’s job will be to develop tools, processes and procedures to increase the quality of our education, certification, instructors and evaluators.  He will also be leading the group developing our Centers For Excellence program that you will hear more about soon.

ASTM / NFPA / NIMS as Our Foundations (Discover How to Include DOJ / POST)

The ASTM F32 committee has been busy developing new standards and updating some older ones.  The NFPA has also added some wilderness SAR standards for the fire service that we are working to include in our certifications and education.  We will continue to use these groups as the primary standard setting organizations that we endorse and use as our foundation.

Actively Participate in Standards Committees in ASTM / NFPA / NIMS / DOJ / POST / NSA

Previously, NASAR only enjoyed a single representative on the ASTM F32 SAR Committee.  Now we have three, Chris Boyer, John Borbuchuk from Pennsylvania, and Dallas Lane from Arizona.  Each of them is focused on helping ASTM build the best and most reasonable standards for SAR possible and help NASAR build the certifications to meet those standards.  Chris Boyer, the Executive Director also sits on the ASTM F32 committee as well as representing NASAR with the National Sheriff’s Association Special Operations Subcommittee and is an active member of NFPA.

Increase the Quality of Instructors and Evaluators by Investing in Their Skills

I think many of our instructors are great.  I want all of you to be fantastic, awesome, and envied for your abilities.  So one of the things the Professional Development Division is going to work on is increasing the capabilities of our instructors and lead evaluators.  Our intent is to bring courses to local conferences that help you understand adult learning concepts and how to use them in our courseware.  That and other things that Jerry will be working on will be coming to you in 2016 and beyond.

Mature Team Accreditation Process That is Respectful of States with Legislated / Organized SAR Response

In a good cross section of the United States, SAR is not legislated or regulated.  In these areas where law enforcement or emergency services have no way of telling a good SAR team from a bad SAR team an accreditation process would go a long way towards assisting the agency having jurisdiction in determining who would be an appropriate resource to seek out to assist with a search.  Over the course of the next year we will be building and testing out an accreditation process whose goal is to provide a team level competency check for local agencies to use when assessing which team to call for a search.  In some states, this process is already legislated or handled in a different governmental process, and NASAR will respect that and will not be implementing the accreditation process in those states (e.g. California, New Mexico, Maine, etc.)

Provide the Tools and Path for a Community / Agency Having Jurisdiction That Wants a SAR Team to Develop One

Even with all the SAR teams that exist today, there are jurisdictions and areas of the country without coverage by a local SAR team.  This year we will be building a toolkit that a local community that wants a SAR team can use to develop and train a new SAR team.  This toolkit will enable communities to use previous best practices to help them, instead of having to reinvent the wheel and waste time and resources on ideas that don’t typically work.  Look for this toolkit towards the beginning of 2016.

Wrap Up

You can see from the items in strategy #3 that we are working on the big professional picture, and trying to level up what we have in place today.

I hope these articles help you understand where we are heading and how you can help us all get there together.

Thanks for being a member and holding on for the past year while we developed a strong foundation for NASAR to succeed.  I appreciate your patience, and if you have any questions please feel free to call me or contact me at

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