Starting an ALSAR Unit

The decision to start a SAR team is an important one. Search & Rescue is a serious business and the creation and management of a SAR team is a decision not to be taken lightly.

Before embarking on the creation of a team there are 2 things that you need to establish:

1. Is there an already existing ALSAR or MREW team covering the area? If so then your job ends here and you should go and join the existing team. ALSAR never approves teams that setup where there is an already existing service (be that ALSAR or MREW) that ‘adequately’ covers the area.

2. Does the area need a SAR team? You are going to spend many hours recruiting, training, fundraising. Make sure you speak to ALSAR and to your Police service to ascertain whether there is a need for a SAR service in your area or whether the Police already receive this service from a neighbouring team. ALSAR has regular contact with the Police services in the UK and will always consult with them when considering applications from new teams.

What am I going to need to start a SAR unit?

Commitment, drive and enthusiasm are the key attributes you will need. Its also best to contact an existing ALSAR unit – They will all be happy to help and answer any questions that you may have.

What does it cost to start & run a SAR unit?

You will find that it will cost more in time than it does in money. In terms of practical costs, Initially the bulk of these are likely to be for photocopying and stamps. As the unit becomes established it can start to focus on fundraising to enable it to purchase equipment or vehicles etc. You must consider the cost of public liability insurance.

How does my unit become affiliated to ALSAR?

You will need to contact ALSAR, who will allocate a sponsoring unit and grant your unit probationary status. From this point you will have to work towards fully meeting all standards laid down in the ACOP (Approved Code of Practice) and training guidlines.

Once you meet all of their guidelines and standards you may (with the agreement of your sponsor) apply for upgrade to full membership.

Why should my unit affiliate to ALSAR?

All SAR teams should belong to a nationally recognised coordinating body. There are very few of these that are officially recognised by UKSAR and ACPO, and only two that deal with inland ground SAR specifically, these being ALSAR and MREW. Many Police Services will only use recognised SAR resources from ALSAR or MREW teams and the Association of Chief Police Officers espouses this view in the Manual of Search Guidance which underpins many of their national standards and policies.

Other benefits include:

1. Standardised training programmes and courses
2. Reduced cost training
3. National recognition for the unit as part of UKSAR
4. Nationally recognised peer organisation
5. Negotiated deals for equipment and services
6. Mutual aid arrangements with other ALSAR units
7. National standards of operation & training
8. Access to the UK LANDSAR radio frequencies

Can my unit be a member of both ALSAR and an MRC region?

ALSAR sees no reason why this should be a problem but it would be for the individual unit to ensure that it is able to meet the requirements of the organisations that it seeks to join.

How do I get my members trained in search skills?

Some ALSAR units run Search Skills courses. They are usually taught over a weekend and take a new member through everything they need to know to become a safe and competent searcher. These courses are normally run at little or no cost for ALSAR units.

There are 3 levels of qualified members that every unit must have:

Search Technician – This is the basis of all Search Qualifications in ALSAR and every operational unit member must have this.

Search Team Leader – Each unit needs a number of qualified STLs in order to manage search resources during an operational incident.

Search Controller – Each unit requires some members who are qualified to manage the initial operational period (sometimes referred to as the Emergency Phase) of a search. The Search Controller receives training in Search Planning, underpinned by international research and development of Search Theory.

What is the best way to advertise to potential unit members?

Papers, Police stations, libraries. Radio programmes along with social networking web sites offer a good hit rate as well as displaying at public events.

How should we manage the unit?

Most units find that a democratic management unit works best – This way the whole membership gets a say in the running of the unit by electing the people that they want.