Volunteering for Search and Rescue
Search and Rescue Groups are located in every major population centre and many smaller communities as well. Often one SAR group may serve an entire regional district. Some groups are also associated with a Road Rescue capability for their area. Consult the groups page for contact information of the group nearest you, or use our map to see where the 80 sar groups in BC are located.
You can also ask for information at your local RCMP/ police detachment or call the regional Emergency Management BC (EMBC) office.
Are SAR Members Paid?
No. SAR groups provide their service on a volunteer basis to the local police, BC Ambulance Service (BCAS), local regional disaster planning or as requested by EMBC to assist another group. Volunteers do receive reimbursement for expenses according to EMBC policies, and are provided with WorkSafe BC coverage while on an operation or task, or authorized training event.
How often do they train?
Training schedules are determined by the local groups. Often their training will focus on particular needs of their area in addition to regular practice of their core ground search and rescue skills. Ongoing training can be as often as once a week with one weekend day per month.
What are the minimum requirements?
While EMBC does allow registered volunteers as young as 16 (with parental consent), most SAR groups have a minimum age of 19 years old. Typical applications include a requirement for a police background check, along with a minimum of a basic First Aid course. Certainly the ground work does require a level of fitness, however many SAR Teams may have needs or roles that can be filled by a variety of age or fitness levels. Above all, the time commitment and willingness to serve your community is paramount to your volunteer involvement.
How much time is involved?
The required of a SAR volunteer varies by region and the number and type of calls the groups responds to. The busiest groups in BC have over 50 calls a year, or about one a week on average, but most have far less. Many groups require training every week for about 2 hours, and some additional time for specialized training several times a year, in addition to time spent on searches. Over and above training commitments, there is equipment management, and possibly fundraising, community events, and managing the group.
Some groups have minimum requirements in order to maintain an active membership within the group. Anticipate above average requirements as an initial volunteer, in order to complete a 74 hour GSAR course.
What kind of training can I get?
British Columbia's network of EMBC recognized SAR groups utilize the training standards set out by EMBC in conjunction with training standards administered by the Justice Institute of BC as well as international standards organizations, and taught for the most part by volunteer instructors and private contractors. The initial standard of Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) is delivered by local certified instructors at the group level. This 74 hour course is the minimum requirement and a prerequisite before other courses are offered.
Additional courses are offered at regional or provincial levels such as Team Leader, Rope Rescue Team member, etc.. Check out the SAR program within the Emergency Management Division of the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and read about the rescue techniques used in BC.
How does a callout originate?
To understand how search and rescue works in British Columbia, read about the BC Search and Rescue Program.
A typical SAR call out originates with a missing person is being reported to a local police force. The police can opt to use the resources of a SAR group if they decide is is necessary. The SAR team is alerted, and a volunteer SAR manager is briefed on the situation. The team responds with tools and techniques depending on the circumstances. The RCMP remain in command, delegating authority to the SAR team, until the missing person is found.