National Search And Rescue Committee

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National Search and Rescue Committee logoThe NSARC is a coordinating and deliberative body of Federal agency representatives that share a common interest for the national improvement of civil search and rescue policy, procedures, effectiveness, and standardization.  The purpose of the Committee is to coordinate and provide guidance for the implementation of the National SAR Plan (NSP).

During the National Search and Rescue Conference of 1973, conference participants recognized the administrative void and concluded that a permanent committee needed to be established in order to oversee the administrative safeguarding of the United States National Search and Rescue Plan and to act as a coordinating medium for discussions involving national SAR related matters.  Acting upon the Conference conclusion, the Secretary of Transportation, under DOT order 1120.28 dated 21 May 1974, established through a written inter-agency agreement the Interagency Committee on Search and Rescue (ICSAR) which was charged to carry out the aforementioned functions.  The title name given to the inter-agency committee remained in effect from 1974 until a 1999 revision to the inter-agency cooperation agreement changed the committee’s title name to the “National Search and Rescue Committee (NSARC)”.



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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Mass Rescue Operations (MRO)

Internationally, Mass Rescue Operations “are characterized by the need for immediate response to large numbers of persons in distress, such that the capabilities normally available to SAR authorities are inadequate.” 

Large number of people in distress elevates the scale and complexity of MRO events beyond normal SAR operations.  Extraordinary effort and coordination by SAR and emergency management authorities must be mobilized in an effective and efficient manner.  Further refinement of the International Aeronautical Maritime Search And Rescue (IAMSAR) manual definition revels there is no absolute value to “large number of persons in distress.”  Time of day, location, and environmental factors may be a better determining factor driving the availability and capability of rescue resources. 

In line with IMO and ICAOs focus on maritime and aviation transportation, MROs are generally in response to transportation disasters but can be in response to any large rescue operation.  Within the United States, MRO classification is further refined from the internationally accepted definition.   MROs in the U.S. are in response to Transportation System incidents.  Such incidents include commercial air, rail, and ship distress, or major petroleum pipeline breaches.


Guidance and documents pertaining to Mass Rescue Operations

Coast Guard Passenger Vessel Safety Program
This link is to the Coast Guard Passenger Vessel Safety Program web page, which provides additional information concerning mass rescue operations, exercises, planning, training, and other information on maritime mass rescue.

Understanding the Challenge: Mass Rescue Operations at Sea
This article describes the challenges SAR authorities may face in planning, preparing and responding to mass rescue operations at sea.

Building a MRO Culture
Presentation discusses the challenges in conducting a mass rescue operation; in particular, cultural barriers.

MRO Scoping Study (2007) - Developed by the USCG Research and Development Center to identify key MRO Risks. A great tool for understanding and mitigating MRO Risk

MRO Designation Letter - Useful tool to identify key personnel responsible for MRO planning / preparedness duties.

USCG MRO Planning Guidance
In the event of a mass rescue (MRO), no single organization is fully equipped to mount an effective response.  The success of an MRO is contingent upon the seamless efforts of search and rescue agencies, the company, mutual assistance assets, and Good Samaritans.  Success is also contingent upon effective plans and the exercising of those plans.

The purpose of this planning guidance is to assist those in developing plans for mass rescue operations in the maritime or navigable waterway environment.  Mass rescues could be the result of a ship, aircraft, rail, roadway or natural disaster incident.  In any case, the sequence of priority in major multi-mission incidents must be lifesaving, environmental protection, and then property protection.

The intent of this planning guidance is to also generate consistency, raise awareness, identify stakeholders, and provide continuity between existing emergency plans such as:  Federal, State, County, City, Industry (e.g. Involved Party, Salvagers, etc.), Good Samaritan, and Volunteer Organizations.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) Guidance Documents

USCG RDC Mass Rescue Operations Scoping Study (2007)

Mass Rescue Operations Job Aids

Black Swan After Action Report Executive Summary, August 2013

Black Swan After Action Report Executive Summary, August 2015