Over the past months, the nation has seen sporadic but increasing hostility and violence towards law enforcement officials and agencies.  In recent weeks there have been ambush style attacks on law enforcement officials in and out of uniform.  There have been plausible reports recently of SAR responders in vehicles with signage and stickers that have been surveilled or had contact by hostile individuals believing that the vehicle and SAR responders were law enforcement.

In response to this trend, NASAR issues the following safety alert to all uniformed and non-uniformed SAR responders nationwide:

  • Maintain situational awareness at all times
  • Remove all identifying stickers and magnetic signs from vehicles
  • When traveling to and from searches wear a civilian blouse or top over your uniform top if possible
  • Minimize side trips while in uniform for gas, meals, shopping, etc.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and those within earshot when discussing SAR
  • Do not train alone, use the buddy system whenever possible
  • Have a plan in case you are confronted by a hostile individual(s)

It has been common custom for SAR responder to have related stickers and magnetic signs on their vehicles when traveling.  This practice has typically been to show pride in your volunteer career, and market your SAR team.  A hostile individual could easily use this style of vehicle labelling as an excuse for violence against a SAR volunteer since we are sometimes indistinguishable from a law enforcement or other agency responder.  Do not let your pride make you a target of opportunity.

It has also been common practice for uniformed SAR volunteers to drive to and from searches in uniform.  NASAR recommends that SAR responders wear a civilian jacket or blouse over their uniform shirt when traveling, or wear a civilian shirt when traveling and don their uniform shirt once at the search command post.  

NASAR recommends that SAR responders minimize or eliminate side trips for gas, meals, shopping, etc. while in uniform.  

Increase your situational awareness at all times, especially when in public during a search, while training, or discussing SAR related topics in public.

When training, utilize the buddy system.  Watch each others back, there is safety in numbers.

Whenever you are training, responding to or searching, have a plan in case you are approached by hostile individuals.  Brief the plan with the whole team or training group, and have multiple communication options to contact authorities.  Always be able to accurately communicate your location, and situation to law enforcement.

There are other actions that each SAR responder can take to provide a safer environment for themselves and their teammates.  NASAR encourages each SAR response organization to have a safety meeting and develop their own reasonable policies and plans regarding this threat.