NASAR has struggled with its priorities because there was no solid future vision for where it wanted to be 3 to 10 years from now.  The worst part was since there was no plan, no one could be held accountable for our future, ergo no future.

We now have a 3-year short-term strategy plan that we are communicating openly (hence this series of communications and website postings), and are working on a 10-year vision.  These are the two basic plans that form the foundation of the future of NASAR and our influence of SAR in general.  I am your representative that is accountable for making all our plans a reality.

Move Towards New Board Of Directors Governance Model

NASAR recently had 9 Directors on its Board.  In 2015 the Board, at my suggestion was downsized to 7 Directors to save on cost and become more nimble, flexible and responsive as we move forward with our plans.  The Directors are elected by the membership to 3-year terms and serve as volunteers.  They do not receive any remuneration or benefits from serving.

The Board is currently investigating the make up of the Directors and is considering how to gain representation from industry leaders and market partners to help in the diversity of knowledge, experience and background on the Board.

The Board is also working on increasing their number of in-person meetings from 2 per year to 3 per year.  The Board currently meets monthly by teleconference for approximately an hour.  It is very difficult to have a rich conversation or debate about the important and complex issues facing us across a phone line in 60 minutes.  The Board recognizes that meeting in-person provides a better decision making environment and they want to increase that opportunity by adding at least one more in-person meeting a year to increase the amount of attention they can provide to important policy review and other critical topics that are best dealt with face to face.

The in-person meetings are not boondoggles where the Board gets to travel to some exciting location and have extravagant meals (far from it – we travel to a central airport hub and get the lowest of 3 hotel bids).  The Board typically flies in late Friday afternoon in time to have dinner together and start their discussions, and they formally meet until approximately 22:00.  On Saturday we get together at 08:00 and work through 21:30 with a working lunch and dinner in the schedule somewhere.  On Sunday we meet starting at 09:00 and then adjourn around 14:00 as members head to get their flights home.  These meetings are open to the membership, and the meeting minutes are placed on the website once approved.

Develop Enhancements To The Online Community

We selected NationBuilder as our website vendor since it has so many tools we can take advantage of over time.  We will be using those tools to expand the web site to include things like an on-line anonymous course critique (to replace the paper form we use now).  One of my goals is an on-line real time chat service where we can host different speakers that would be available to answer your questions and speak to current SAR issues in real time.

Develop a Long Range Education And Certification Plan

NASAR has coasted for most of the past decade without adding any significant new certifications or courses, or even regular textbook updates.  To make you a professional SAR volunteer, we need to provide a broad series of courses and add to that list every year.  You also need access to material that is contemporaneous, that is current with the state of the art in SAR and other related skills.

In the past 18 months we have rolled out the new Mounted SARTECH III test, and a new Initial Actions course.  We also sponsored Urban Search Management Instructor courses in Arizona, Colorado and Canada.  Soon you will see the professional road map that we have developed to help you expand your knowledge and capabilities.

FUNSAR was published in 2005, and MLPI in 2007.  Since these two anchor texts have been published cell phones and GPS have become commonplace.  The use of computers to manage searches has grown exponentially, and lost person behavior has seen expanded research.  To help bring these two classic NASAR textbooks into the present, we have begun the process of updating both of them.  We expect MLPI to be in your hands in the first quarter of 2016 and FUNSAR in the last quarter of 2016.

We will apply a 3-year cyclical update model to each of our texts and programs moving forward.  This should help you stay current with the SAR state of the art.

Build The Business Model For The Future

We are a higher education institution offering instruction, certification through building our own instructors and evaluators as well as publishing our own textbooks.  Those are three different but intertwined business segments.

This may seem like a simple statement, but the implication is HUGE!  In the past internal staff has focused on conference planning and NASAR relied on the altruism of volunteers from the membership for updating courses and textbooks.  Staff (meaning me) now focus on updating the textbooks and course materials with paid professionals managing and completing the work.  Volunteer members still contribute greatly, but the overall project now has an owner that can be held accountable.

Our organization chart has changed to support this new model.  If you go to the website you will see a copy of it that shows three functional directors that report to me.  These positions are all appointed by the Executive Director and include Certification, Education and Professional Standards.  Education is headed by Bryan Enberg, Certification by John Borbuchuk, and Professional Standards by Jerry Whaley (all highly experienced SAR responders).  Each of these members serve as volunteers and are not compensated for their extraordinary efforts for NASAR.

In the next year or so the plan is to add a publishing director and hopefully some part time professional writers/editors with SAR background.

Determine What We Intend To Advocate For

A while back we added “advocacy” to our tag line.  Being an advocate for an issue requires having a big picture view of the industry (situational awareness), knowing the impacts of different positions on various populations, and what possible unintended consequences there are to our actions.  Currently we are working on a position paper regarding the use of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems aka drones) in SAR.  Over the next few years we want to work on positions to support and provide insurance coverage, workers compensation, and death benefits in all the states for professional volunteer SAR responders and for states to have legislation determining SAR responsibility within their jurisdiction.

Don’t forget that the more members we have, the stronger our advocacy position.  Membership growth is an inherent part of our advocacy program, and you can help us be stronger and carry an effective message by recommending membership to your teammates.

Engage National Level SAR Dog Groups To Develop A Coordinated Plan For The Future

There are a fair number of SAR canine groups in the US that deploy across overlapping regions, but coverage is still not complete in all areas that have SAR missions.  For whatever reasons, the group standards have not been consistent, and until recently there was no ASTM standard to guide us at a national level.

ASTM is now producing some standards, and the canine groups need to get more involved.  We should also be looking at how we can cover the gaps between groups and make certification/recertification more convenient and cheap (notice I didn’t say easier).

This isn’t something that NASAR can resolve on our own.  We need all the national level SAR dog groups to come together.  NASAR has already hosted the first conference call for the groups, and we are working on planning an in-person meeting for the leaders of the groups towards the beginning of the year.

Wrap Up

You can see from the items in the strategy documents that we are trying to build a solid foundation for NASAR to be successful and flourish for many years.

I hope these seven articles have helped you understand where we are heading; the thought process that we all participated in as we developed the strategies and how you can help us achieve these goals.  I look forward to updating you on our progress over the next years.

Thanks for being a member of NASAR and serving as a steward of your community.  If you have any questions please feel free to call me or contact me at

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