Planning Section Chief - SAR

This is a management level course. It focuses on the knowledge and techniques needed to effectively perform the duties of the Planning Section Chief on any search and rescue operation managed under the NIMS Incident Command System.
Using the ICS framework and actual scenarios, this course deals with search and rescue strategy development, probability of area and probability of detection calculations in planning and evaluating the search operation.
Thestudents are given "state-of-the art" tools, which they use during the course to solve actual problems and effectively plan search and rescue operations.
The course also covers the procedures used by personnel within the Situation Unit, Resource Unit, Documentation Unit and Demobilization Unit. This course provides the skills and knowledge a person needs to function as a member of the General Staff on an Incident Management Team for SAR operations.
The recommended number of hours for the course is (24) twenty-four. This course may be taught over two weekends or straight through over three days. Extra practical exercises can be added and may increase the course to 32 hours.

Who Should Attend

This course is designed for persons who been Operations Chiefs or have held other management positions during search and rescue operations and are ready to advance to the management planning level.
Emergency response professionals desiring to better understand the ICS planning function concepts (the concepts taught in this course apply to all types of emergency response, and were used to manage the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and major wildland fires) as well asPlanning Section Chiefs and other ICS managers who would like to refresh or expand their knowledge of search and rescue management planning will benefit from this course. Additionally suited for PSC-SAR are SAR personnel who want to learn comprehensive and detailed information about the planning functions needed during lost person incidents.


Prerequisites are recommended.

  • Managing the Lost Person Incident
  • (NIMS) ICS IS-200 series
  • (NIMS) ICS IS-300 series
Students should bring the SAR Incident Commander Field Handbook to class.


  • Managing the Planning Function
  • Reporting to the Incident
  • Gathering and Processing Information
  • Developing Alternative Strategies
  • Developing the Incident Action Plan
  • Operational Period Briefing
  • Documenting the Incident
  • Debriefing Demobilization
  • Computer Assisted Search Information Exchange

After Completion

Upon completion of this course the student should be able to:
  • Manage the SAR Planning Function
  • Develop performance expectations to supervise subordinates effectively
  • Establish and maintain a resource tracking system to assure the current status and location of all resources are immediately available
  • Gather, analyze and display critical information concerning the current tactics being used to determine effectiveness
  • Develop and evaluate alternative SAR strategies
  • Schedule and conduct a planning meeting
  • Properly complete an Operational Planning Worksheet
  • Develop a complete Incident Action Plan
  • Prepare other required forms, maps and supporting documents to be included in the Incident Action Plan
  • Accurately identify and track resources assigned to an incident 
  • Conduct effective briefings and debriefings