Search and Rescue. Photo by Gail Johnson

The Search and Rescue EMT

As an EMS instructor, one the challenges I face each semester is the girth of job opportunities for my students and helping them match their ambitions and goals with the appropriate EMS careers that is available.

In a series of articles over the next few weeks I will start to touch on the available career choices and opportunities that exist for licensed EMS personnel in the United States.

Today I want to talk about Search and Rescue Teams, or SARS as they have come to be known as in the EMS community’s acronym rich lingo. Specifically, urban and wildland search and rescue teams operated by privately run and privately funded, non-governmental agencies.

As a SARS team member you are expected to undergo the same type of screening and background checks as you would with any other EMS agency; Background and drug screening, live-scan finger printing and motor vehicle records printouts BEFORE you even step in the door.

The SARS community is very diligent and protective of their reputations and are very selective in whom they allow into their ranks. So just assume that if you have a whole bunch of speeding tickets, cant pass the background check or fail the drug screening, you are DOA for this gig before you even start.

Assuming you have passed all the pre-selection criteria and make it into the big interview process, this then is when the rubber meets the road, as they say. What do you bring to the table that will make the members and electing board want you to be a part of the Search and Rescue Team? Do you have any special skills or certifications that will make the board say, “Hey, lets not let this one get away”.

As an EMT in good shape, willing to undergo lots of rigorous training you should willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice, and head to an important Search and Rescue event. (this is what will separate wheat from the chaff). This is the attitude that will separate you from the other applicants who just want to add this to their resume, but not actually do the job.

Once hired, and understand, this is an opportunity that in most cases is pure volunteer, so you will do this aside from the job you hold that pays the bills. But once you are on board, then the training really begins for the new SAR member.

In California, it starts with the book-work, THE INTRODUCTION TO SEARCH AND RESCUE, followed by an online examination. Next on the hit parade is CERT training, which is done at your local City Hall or County offices. CERT is the Community Emergency Response Team that each California City utilizes as a trained civilian Corps that mobilizes in the event of an emergency.

In and around Los Angeles, my hometown, the C.E.M.P. Search & Rescue California Emergency Mobile Patrol is a good place to find out about SAR. You can also check out the California Region – Mountain Rescue Association if you are local or live in California. Another outfit which is making a difference is the Superstition Search and Rescue in Arizona. Finally, you can check out New York Search & Rescue if you are on the other side of the country. But this list is not exhaustive, you can find out more by simply doing a search for SAR in your local area.

While you are doing all of the above training you are also getting additional FEMA certs online and attending weekly or monthly field training with your new SARS team members. Training includes presentations and PowerPoints; in class scenarios and skills trainings as well as in the field rope training, mountaineering and urban Search and Rescue drills.

As an EMT with the license, certifications, background and skills necessary to stabilize the person once they are located, provide trauma and medical care as a licensed professional and to be a part of the team, what you bring to the table is invaluable to SARS teams across the country.

So, as part of your growth and your commitment to the communities you live in, I urge each of you to look up online your local SARS team, reach out to them, and become the best EMS professional you can be, while at the same time, being a strong and vital part of the community you live and work in.

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Jack Murphy
Jack Murphy is a licensed firefighter, EMT and EMS Instructor in Michigan and California, holds a JD in real estate law and BA in History as well as numerous industry related certifications. These days Jack teaches a Hybrid EMT program at a small College in the Los Angeles area.

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