National Search And Rescue Committee

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National Search and Rescue Committee logo


The National Search and Rescue Committee is a federal-level committee formed to coordinate civil search and rescue (SAR) matters of interagency interest within the United States.

2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, SE * Washington DC 20593
Phone: (202) 372-2090 * Facsimile: (202) 372-8357*
Email NSARC Secretariat here

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Inland SAR School

The National SAR School, located in Yorktown, Virginia, is sponsored by the USCG and the USAF. The school offers courses in Land Search Planning with instructors from the U.S. Air Force. Land Search Planning courses are provided to personnel from government agencies at any level, law enforcement, emergency management, military, Civil Air Patrol, and members of volunteer organizations. There is no tuition charge for U.S. citizens directly involved in SAR.

Further information concerning the Inland SAR Planning course can be found on the Inland SAR School website:

Inland SAR Planning Course Overview can be found at:

Land Search and Rescue Addendum

Report Abstract

This Land SAR Addendum was created by the National Search and Rescue Committee (NSARC) to provide standardized guidance and information on the search and rescue (SAR) of persons, vehicles, and missing aircraft operations. This Addendum further expands on the implementation of the United States National Search and Rescue Plan (NSP), the National SAR Supplement (NSS) to the International Aeronautical and Maritime SAR (IAMSAR) Manual, and is the land SAR equivalent to the United States Coast Guard Search and Rescue Addendum to the NSS, which provides detailed guidance for the conduct of SAR operations in the oceanic environment.

Helicopter Rescue Techniques: Civilian Public Safety and Military Helicopter Rescue Operations (1st Edition, October, 2013)

 National Park Service, National SAR Academy Training Manual

Swiftwater Rescue Manual (1st Edition, September, 2012)

National Park Service

Technical Rescue Handbook (11st Edition, August, 2014)

National Park Service


A Simple Guide to Conducting Ground Search & Rescue Detection Experiments
(Vol I)

Report Abstract

Effective sweep width is the missing critical element to determining meaningful and accurate Probability of Detection (POD) values. POD is essential for search planning and evaluating the effectiveness of a search task. This tool is then used to determine where to send future resources out into the field to maximize the Probability of Success. Simply put, knowing effective sweep width saves lives. The only way to determine effective sweep widths is to take searchers and perform field experiments in the environments where actual searches take place. This guide will help searchers plan and conduct effective sweep width experiments.

A Simple Guide to Conducting Ground Search & Rescue Detection Experiments
(Vol II & Appendices)

Integrated Detection Experiment Assistant 

Sweep Width Estimation for Ground Search and Rescue

Report Abstract

This landmark study provides ground search and rescue (SAR) providers and planners a scientifically sound yet practical method for objectively determining the probability of detection (POD) for lost persons and clues.  For both pre-search planning and post-search evaluation, it is essential that the search planner be able to objectively estimate the POD for a given object in a specific segment, given a sensor/resource type and level of effort.  The study details a simple method of planning, conducting, recording, and performing an automated analysis of an experiment and its results to determine effective sweep width, which is the cornerstone of objective POD estimation.  The report fully describes detection experiments using personnel on the ground searching visually for typical SAR search objects.  These experiments were conducted at five different sites in the continental   U. S.  representing different Eco-Regions or seasons of the year.  Searchers with varying levels of experience participated in the experiment with the average number of years in SAR equal to 9 and the average number of searches nearly 50.  Sweep width values ranged from 142 meters for a high-visibility adult in winter-time deciduous  forest of  Virginia to 17 meters for a low-visibility adult in the dense marine  forest of western  Washington State  .  In addition, a loose relationship between Average Maximum Detection Range and sweep width was identified that requires further experimentation to determine whether sweep width can be inferred from a few abbreviated detection range experiments performed at the scene of an actual search.  Several factors were found that increase or decrease a searchers ability to detect the search object.  In addition to describing the experiment, the report has extensive appendices that describe the theory and application of effective sweep width.

Compatibility of Land SAR Procedures with Search Theory

Report Abstract

The widely-accepted science of search theory as described by Koopman (1946, 1980), Stone (1989) and others was incorporated into the first edition of the National Search and Rescue Manual in 1959 after the U. S. Coast Guard provided the first comprehensive application to civil SAR in the 1950s. Applied search theory quickly gained acceptance by maritime SAR agencies worldwide and has remained in global use ever since. Various practical improvements and modifications to search planning techniques and data have been made over the years, but the application of the underlying theory remains unchanged, as shown in the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual (IAMSAR Manual, 1999) and recognized globally as the standard text on aeronautical and maritime SAR operations and methods.

After a preliminary review of the available land search planning literature at a special meeting of the National Search and Rescue Committee (NSARC) Research and Development (R&D) Working Group in March of 2001, it was determined that the results of scientific operations research as it relates to searching may not have been effectively applied by those working in land search. In partial response to this, the NSARC R&D Working Group tasked Potomac Management Group, Inc., with reviewing current published methods used for searching areas for lost, missing, or distressed persons on land who are in need of assistance. The purpose was to gain familiarity with current terminology and procedures, and to identify which procedures are compatible with the application of formal search theory to land search, which could become compatible with practical revisions, and which cannot be revised in a practical manner to achieve compatibility. The findings of this review are included in this report.

This report concludes that it does not appear there has ever been a comprehensive attempt to apply the science of search theory to the development of land search planning and techniques. The report finds that various individuals at various times have attempted to apply bits and pieces of what they believed to be search theory to the problem. There is clearly a great deal of room for improvement as search theory can make substantial contributions if properly applied. There is also a critical need to rectify some of the more crucial misunderstandings that could have a significantly detrimental effect on future inland search operations.

This report recommends the following:

1. Developing a standard methodology for land search planning.
2. Refining and validating the procedures for establishing land sweep width values.
3. Performing sweep width experiments for the land SAR environment.
4. Developing computer-based search planning decision support tools for land SAR.
5. Developing improved resources allocation guidance for area land searches.
6. Improving procedures for estimating POD on land.

A Method for Determining Effective Sweep Widths for Land Searches; Procedures for Conducting Detection Experiments

Report Abstract

For the first time, a standard, simple, practical, and low-cost method for conducting detection experiments for ground searches was successfully developed and demonstrated. This included a simple method for reducing the data obtained in such experiments that requires only minimal computation and the construction of a simple graph. Two types of objects were used—a fluorescent orange glove and a black balloon-filled 55-gallon plastic garbage bag. Twelve gloves and nine garbage bags were placed randomly along either side of a 2.25 kilometer track in a wooded area. Thirty-two searchers participated in the demonstration, providing 384 detection opportunities for gloves and 288 detection opportunities for garbage bags. Preliminary visual effective sweep width (a.k.a. “detectability index”) estimates were obtained for each object type for the type of environment in which the demonstration was conducted.

Land search and rescue (SAR) organizations will now be able to conduct detection experiments in their own respective areas of responsibility using their own resources to produce effective sweep width values for their own use and the use of others in similar search situations. This work constitutes a major breakthrough for improving land search planning and evaluation methods by replacing subjective estimates for probability of detection (POD) with objective ones that are more reliable, repeatable, and accurate than current subjective techniques. This work will also make it possible to bring known and proven methods for the optimal allocation of search resources to each situation that requires areas to be searched, leading to multiple benefits.

These benefits include finding survivors sooner on average and thereby saving more lives, reducing risks to searchers through reduced search times, reducing costs, reducing the time volunteers must take from their normal lives, and making resources more available for other missions if needed.

Australian Land Search Operations Manual

This Manual provide a comprehensive reference source for those Authorities that have the responsibility for conducting land search and rescue operations within Australia.

Good Samaritan Laws for Every State

This link provides access to every State's Good Samaritan law.