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Search and Rescue (SAR)

Search and Rescue [SAR] is the use of aircraft, surface craft, submarines, specialized rescue teams, and equipment to search for and rescue personnel in distress on land or at sea. Search and Rescue services consist of the performance of distress monitoring, communication, coordination and SAR functions, including provision of medical advice, initial medical assistance, or medical evacuation, through the use of public and private resources including cooperating aircraft, vessels and other craft and installations. SAR is distinct from Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) in that CSAR is required to effect a rescue in response to enemy action, and potentially in the face of enemy reaction in hostile overland environments. Personnel in nontactical, uncontested environments can expect to be recovered by conventional SAR.

Every year several thousand people drown worldwide. These deaths are in many instances the result of exhaustion, dehydration, and hypothermia induced loss of coordination and consciousness which results in drowning. In other instances where survival is not affected by lower temperatures, the task of locating, assisting, and otherwise recovering persons in peril from an aqueous environment can be compounded by inclement weather, and environmental obstacles like fire, ice, or smoke which make approach to a potential drowning victim perilous to the life of the rescuer.

Although the initial response time and delivery capability of search and rescue (SAR) based patrol aircraft have reached efficient levels of service, the aircraft are still hindered by a lack of targeting, precision deployment, and mobility control over the survival packages they deploy. Often the dropped life rafts, once inflated, simply get blown away in high winds, thereby becoming out of reach of the drowning persons.

Rescues by helicopter are typically performed by lowering down a single line with a harness or basket on the end. A rescuer would typically accompany the rescue device down, and after disengaging himself or herself from the rescue device, would secure or engage a single victim to the device. The rescuer, along with any additional victims, were then forced to wait in the dangerous conditions while the rescue device holding the single victim was raised up into the helicopter, the victim was detached or disengaged from the rescue device, and the rescue device was lowered back down. The rescuer could then attempt to engage another victim with the rescue device, which would restart the raising and lowering procedure.

It is common to use helicopters for evacuation of injured persons from the site of a major catastrophe (e.g., vehicle accident, fire, train derailment, skiing accident, etc.). In addition, helicopters are widely used in many other types of search, rescue and retrieval operations, such as locating persons lost in the wild and transporting those persons when they have been located by a rescue party. However, the most common element in any situation involving a helicopter during evacuation or rescue is the difficulty of landing in unknown areas. Landing sites must be established for the landing and take-off of helicopters, and their location must be clearly marked. This allows for the safety of the helicopter, the helicopter crew, and most of all the safety of the person or persons being rescued.

Search and Rescue Regions [SRRs] are established to ensure provision of adequate land-based communications infrastructure, efficient distress alert routing, and proper operational coordination to effectively support SAR services. The SAR Coordinators have overall responsibility for providing or arranging for SAR services within US SRRs. The U.S. Air Force for the recognized U.S. aeronautical SRR corresponding to the continental U.S. other than Alaska. The U.S. Pacific Command for the recognized U.S. aeronautical SRR corresponding to Alaska. The U.S. Coast Guard for the recognized U.S. aeronautical and maritime SRRs which coincide with the ocean environments, and including Hawaii.

Search and Rescue (SAR) is one of the Coast Guard's oldest missions. Minimizing the loss of life, injury, property damage or loss by rendering aid to persons in distress and property in the maritime environment has always been a Coast Guard priority. Coast Guard SAR response involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft and boats linked by communications networks. The National SAR Plan divides the U.S. area of SAR responsibility into internationally recognized aernoautical and maritime SAR regions. The Coast Guard is the SAR Coordinator for U.S. aeronautical and maritime search and rescue regions that are near America's oceans, including Alaska and Hawaii. To meet this responsibility, the Coast Guard maintains SAR facilities on the East, West and Gulf coasts; in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico, as well as on the Great Lakes and inland U.S. waterways. The Coast Guard is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field of search and rescue.

The Coast Guard develops, establishes, maintains and operates rescue facilities for the promotion of safety on, under and over international waters and waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction, conducts safety inspections of most merchant vessels, and investigates marine casualties. The Federal Aviation Administration has air traffic control and flight service facilities available to assist in SAR operations. The Maritime Administration operates a fleet of merchant ships for government use and promotes a safe merchant marine.

Department of Defense (DOD) components have facilities and other resources that are used to support their own operations. These resources may be used for civil SAR needs on a not-to-interfere basis with military missions.

Since its inception, the Naval service has conducted SAR operations, for its own and for others. Unfortunately, until recently, SAR was conducted in a haphazard fashion and had little to no structure. The costly losses of personnel in two World Wars emphasized the need to preserve personnel and equipment.

The introduction of helicopters in the 1940's marked a new chapter in Naval Search and Rescue. The rotary wing aircraft working in conjunction with existing assets, greatly expanded the Navy's SAR capabilities. The quick deployability of the helicopter made SAR missions more viable and permitted SAR missions that previously would have been impossible to conduct.

During the Vietnam War the importance of having well trained units with the personnel and equipment to effectively conduct rescue and MEDEVAC operations was realized. Although still not officially regulated, SAR crews began to train and recruit personnel with SAR in mind. Swimmers and Corpsmen were integrated as regular components of SAR aircrews, improving survivor recovery rates and care. The increased number of SAR missions being conducted still had no official structure or standardization.

To counter these inadequacies, the Chief of Naval Operations formally established the Search and Rescue Model Manager (SARMM) in 1979. Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Sixteen (HC-16) was the first command to assume duty as SARMM. HC-16 developed numerous advances for Navy SAR including; establishment of CNO approved Rescue Swimmer and SAR Medical Technician curriculums, creation of the SAR TACAID and standardization of level A and & B. medical kits.

In 1990 the SARMM responsibility was transferred from HC-16 to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron One (HS-1). Under HS-1's direction, Navy SAR continued to grow and adapt. Their tenure saw the introduction of a safer rappel harness, a major rewrite of the Navy Search and Rescue Manual (NWP 3-50.1), introduction of the SAR/MEDEVAC Litter and surface swimmer Pro-pay/NEC. In March 1997, SARMM duty was again transferred. This time to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Three (HC-3).

The present staff consists of personnel representing a wide area of expertise in aviation and surface rescue fields. HC-3 has overseen the second major revision to the SAR Manual and the first major revision to OPNAVINST 3130.6 (SAR Instruction). HC-3 continues the fine traditions of Navy SAR and the promaotion of standardized training, equipment and procedures.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:35:36 ZULU