Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Becoming a Member of Search and Rescue
Thanks for your interest in joining Search and Rescue! Our outstanding team – recognized for excellence throughout the intermountain rescue community – is made up of volunteers like you who contribute various skills to the organization.
The following Q&A should answer most of your questions about what it takes to become a member.
When you’re ready to apply, simply print the Membership Application Form, fill it out, and mail it to (or drop it off at) the Utah County Sheriff’s Office:
Search & Rescue
c/o Sgt Tom Hodgson
3075 North Main
Spanish Fork, UT 84660
Q: Do I have what it takes to join Search and Rescue?
A: It’s possible! Not all team members rock climb, ski, or know how to build a HAM radio from scratch. We look for any combination of the following skills when selecting new members: outdoor travel (climbing, skiing, 4 wheelers, etc.) and survival (winter, summer, orienteering, etc.), medical, radio, ELT, SCUBA, swiftwater, caving, tracking, K-9 and others. Ongoing team training brings members up to speed in other disciplines. Utah County consists of one of the most geographically diverse areas on earth with many types of outdoor opportunities and skills which can contribute to a successful rescue team.
What all team members share is dedication to the citizens of and visitors to our communities, the ability to work well together, and the willingness to make personal sacrifices in order to make a BIG difference.
Q: How much are SAR members paid?
A: Search and Rescue is a volunteer organization and each year the Sheriff gratefully agrees to double our salary of $0. In fact, being a member of Search and Rescue can be expensive. Members buy their own gear (details below), pay for their own gas, and even pay $36 in annual dues to the Mountain Rescue Association. New members can expect to spend $1,000-$2,000 their first year, depending on what required gear they already own.
Q: How much of my time will Search and Rescue require?
A: Your SAR schedule will include meetings, trainings, and call outs. The SAR business meeting is held the first Thursday evening of each month, usually for 2-3 hours. Team trainings occur the first Saturday of the month, usually from 8:00 a.m. till noon. SAR responds to around a hundred rescue missions each year and team members are expected to attend at least 30% of these. Missions typically last between two and five hours, though some are over in twenty minutes and others take all day, all night, or even several days.
First year cadets must also attend trainings the third Thursday evening and Saturday morning of the month. During these trainings, new members are trained in all major skills used on typical rescue missions and learn to work together efficiently. This demanding first-year schedule also demonstrates the kind of commitment required for ongoing dedication to the team. Because SAR positions are limited to roughly fifty members, it’s critical that those positions be filled with active members.
Search and Rescue offers many additional training opportunities to its members including First Responder or EMT certification and specialty trainings in various disciplines such as caving, mountaineering, K-9 and others.
Q: How does SAR get “called out”?
A: When a 9-1-1 call reaches the county, a deputy investigates and decides whether to page SAR. Dispatch sends the page with information about the type and location of the call, and available members check onto the radio to let ICS (Incident Command System) know who’s on the way. Some members are given assignments to bring required gear like 4 wheelers, watercraft, snowmobiles, or the dive trailer. If more members are needed, a second page is sent and SAR members reevaluate whether they can leave their other responsibilities at the moment. This is an appropriate place to give a big thanks to our employers who allow our SAR members to leave work for this urgent community service!
Q: What happens after I submit my new member application?
A: SAR collects applications until October. Background checks are run and interviews are scheduled with the most promising applicants or those with the skills we need most at the time. Depending on the outcome of these interviews and number of open positions, invitations are extended. New members attend an orientation with their cadet trainer in November and officially join the team at the January team meeting.
Q: Is Search and Rescue dangerous?
A:The Sheriff Office and SAR is very clear about the fact that YOUR SAFETY COMES FIRST. The safety of your teammates comes second, and only then comes the responsibility to the victim. ICS takes this very seriously and works to never put team members in danger. Safety officers are assigned to focus solely on the safety of everyone involved in a call out. Furthermore, team members are expected to refuse assignments that they feel put them in unreasonable danger.
That said, rescues often occur on high cliffs, in dangerous water, deadly weather, and other life-threatening circumstances. SAR members sometimes risk their lives to save others, though such risks should be kept as minimal as possible. The team emphasizes outstanding training and protocols in order to manage these circumstances safely.
Q: Do Search and Rescue members have any law enforcement responsibilities?
A: No. Members are sworn in as members of the Sheriff Department following the successful completion of their first year, but duties are limited strictly to search and rescue efforts. The team may assist with investigations such as evidence searches and traffic control or campsite evacuation under the direction of a Sheriff deputy, and in this case (and during other official SAR activities) citizens are obliged to follow SAR directions. SAR members should drive responsibly at all times. Violations may result in corrective measures or expulsion from the team.
Q: What gear will I need to acquire to participate on the team?
A: Here’s a list of some of the basic equipment you’ll need and approximate prices to expect:
- Radio $140.00
- Harness $50.00
- Clothing $400.00
- Boots $150.00
- Brake Bar $45.00
- Carabiners $70.00
- Pack $140.00
- PFD (Life Vest) $70.00
- Snowshoes $150.00
- Mountain Axe $80.00
- Avalanche Beacon $300.00
- Crampons $140.00
- Misc. $300.00
Read about one member’s first year in Search and Rescue.
Print the Membership Application Form