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Meet Search and Rescue

Posted by HikerCass at Mar 31, 2015 05:20 PM |

When it comes to getting outdoor enthusiasts out of sticky situations, search and rescue is the one to call for help. But what—and who—is search and rescue? Here's everything you need to know about the nicest people you never want to meet on trail.

When it comes to getting outdoor enthusiasts out of sticky situations, search and rescue is the one to call for help. But what—and who—is search and rescue? Here's everything you need to know about the nicest people you never want to meet on trail.

What does search and rescue do?

Search and rescue volunteers go where regular EMS can’t. They find lost people, treat injured parties and assist them in getting back to civilization safely. And they don't charge for their services.

Essential Information

Q: Who can call for search and rescue’s help?

A: Anyone!

Q: How do I call them?

A: Activate your SPOT or personal locator beacon in an emergency, or call 911.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: It’s free! (National parks sometimes contract with private SAR services that may charge a fee. But wouldn't you rather live?)

Q: What if I have an animal with me?

A: Search and rescue can sometimes help an animal that’s with an injured human. But they don’t assist injured animals. For that, try WASART at (425) 681-5498.

Q: How can I help out?

A: You can donate money or volunteer.

Want to learn more? Check out our search and rescue resource page.

Who volunteers with search and rescue?

Based on the very technical rescues they mastermind, you’d never know that most search and rescue personnel are, by day, software engineers, teachers, writers and stay-at-home moms. But don’t let their day jobs fool you. When it comes to being professional rescuers, there’s no one better for the job.

Eric Rosenberg, King County Search and Rescue

Eric Rosenberg
King County Explorer Search and Rescue

"I like that people can rely on me to provide training, be a leader, raise funds, carry someone out of the woods. Whatever needs to be done."

What kind of training do volunteers have?

Volunteers go through a minimum of 164 hours of rigorous training in map and compass navigation, outdoor survival and first aid, often during the harshest weather conditions to simulate actual rescues. And that’s just to become state certified as a “ground pounder.”

Heather Reed, King County Explorer Search and RescueHeather Reed
King County Explorer Search and Rescue

"You learn to love adverse conditions in our training. You learn to love the wet and love the mud."

What draws volunteers to the organization?

Volunteers are drawn to search and rescue for many reasons. For some, it’s the opportunity to learn advanced outdoors skills. For others, it’s a physical escape from a sedentary day job. A surprising number of volunteers get involved in the organization as a way to give back after being rescued themselves.

Drew Fletcher, Seattle Mountain Rescue

Drew Fletcher
Seattle Mountain Rescue

"I got attracted to search and rescue when I got injured very badly. I told myself, ‘as soon as I recover from this, I think I’m going to join these guys.’"

What drives these volunteers?

Regardless of the many reasons they’re initially drawn to the organization, search and rescue volunteers have one big thing in common: they love helping people. It’s their passion, their reason for being. It’s why they buy their own gear for missions, drive their own personal vehicles to rescues and spend their own money on the gas necessary to do so. For them, going where EMS can’t—and finding lost people, treating injured parties and assisting them in getting back to civilization safely—isn’t an inconvenience. It’s a privilege.

Steve Allen, Seattle Mountain Rescue.

Steve Allen
Seattle Mountain Rescue

"The most addictive thing is when you’ve been personally involved in saving someone’s life. That’s an incredible rush."

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This article has been adapted from the March+April 2015 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA, and get a year of our member magazine delivered to your door!


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