This is the first installment in a series from King County Search and Rescue.

Seattle/King County is bustling with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages throughout the year. With so many people out enjoying nature, it can be an unfortunate reality that accidents occur and people will need help from time to time. That is where the best kept secret in King County comes along: King County Search and Rescue.

Many people do not know what Search and Rescue is and exactly what they do. Here is a primer.

Photo Courtesy King County Search and Rescue

Under state law, it is the police in each jurisdiction who are responsible for Search and Rescue. Washington State and King County in particular, have a long history of using volunteers to assist the Sheriff in that Search and Rescue responsibility. About 700 qualified, trained volunteers, spread across eight distinct non-profit Search and Rescue units, work together in a cooperative association known as the King County Search and Rescue Association (KCSARA). These volunteers are ready to go at a moment’s notice; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all year long, no matter the weather or the time of day or night.

The Sheriff’s Office provides the legal authority for Search and Rescue work and KCSARA provides the workers at no cost to the public. King County is the most active county in the State in terms of Search and Rescue work and KCSARA is one of the most active volunteer Search and Rescue groups in the Nation, often being called upon to assist outside of King County.

These are the 8 groups:

Incident Support Team -IST are the information center. IST volunteers provide support to the KCSO through planning and implementation of an Incident Action Plan. IST’s specialty is the Incident Command System and the administrative functions that are required during missions. We are field qualified, but do not often enter the “field” (i.e., on the trail) during a mission. We operate primarily in the Command Post at Base.

Explorer Search and Rescue – ESAR serves as the primary “ground-pounder” team for general SAR technicians.

Seattle Mountain Rescue – SMR serves as the high-angle and technical rescue team.

4×4 who provides logistics, transportation, security, helispots and coordinates with air assets.

King County Search Dogs -KCSD provide K-9 teams trained in specific tracking and scenting roles (cadaver, ground, air, etc)

NW Trackers provide human tracking and environmental interpretation (looks for clues) of foot travel, etc.

Horse provide mounted assets for trail operations.

Ski Patrol Alpine Rescue Team – SPART provides alpine, snow-pack and avalanche expertise.

Other general teams comprised of KCSARA volunteers are:

ASU EMT (air support unit emergency medical technician) –  well-qualified, physically fit volunteers who are licensed EMT’s that can insert from a helicopter via hoist.

ELT (electronic locator-transponder) volunteers help look for active ELT’s in support of various missions.

RAD (Rapid Alpine Deployment) Proactively patrol the I-90 corridor on weekends in the Summer to promote outdoor safety, promote SAR and respond as the initial team on any missions that may develop.

KCSARA (King County Search and Rescue Association) leadership roles/special assignments to assist with the administrative governance of the KCSARA body.

Photo Courtesy King County Search and Rescue
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