King County is Washington’s largest metropolitan county; It spans more than 2,100 square miles with a population of more than 1.8 million. The landscape is diverse, spanning Vashon Island to Snoqualmie Pass. It is no wonder that our community likes to get outdoors and experience nature at its best, especially during summer!

Image courtesy of KCSAR

That’s why every summer weekend King County Search and Rescue deploys a Rapid Alpine Deployment (RAD) team to patrol the trailheads along the I-90 corridor. We do this to reduce our response time to assist people who are lost or injured.


On a “normal” search and rescue mission, when someone calls 911 a King County Sheriff’s Office deputy is assigned as the Incident Commander (IC) and calls on Search and Rescue units to respond. We typically arrive at the scene (which could be 30 miles away or more) about the same time as the deputy.

Because they are patrolling the trailheads, the RAD team’s response time can instead be as little as 5 or 10 minutes. RAD teams respond to missions on at least 50% of the days they are deployed.

The RAD team goes “looking for trouble”; sometimes encountering people who are injured or have been sent to summon help. Their goal is not to effect a complete “rescue mission” (though that sometimes happens) but to quickly reach subjects that need assistance, stabilize their medical condition and establish a Command Post (CP) to call out for additional resources or further medical aid as appropriate.

The RAD team is made up of a highly experienced Search and Rescue leader who acts as Incident Commander until a deputy arrives, an experienced field team leader and one or two team members. Typically at least one person on the RAD team is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or trained in Advanced First Aid. They are deployed in a 4×4 vehicle with VHF radios and additional medical and rescue supplies.

Image courtesy of KCSAR

The RAD team is in the field on summer weekends, patrolling from noon until 8pm. When they are not responding to missions, they are meeting hikers at trailheads and handing out “10 essentials” cards. Being adequately prepared for even a short afternoon hike could save your life!

Kids can receive a free rescue whistle (one of the “10 essentials”) if you come and say hi. It is a great opportunity to meet our members, and learn about ways you can join or support our organization of highly-trained volunteers.

We receive no funding from the county, state or federal government, and the vehicles and equipment owned by King County Search and Rescue units are 100% funded by donations and our volunteers themselves. We do it because we believe in helping those in need, and giving back to the community we are a part of. There is no charge for search and rescue services in Washington.

We’ll see you at the trailhead!

KCSAR is currently accepting new volunteers. Visit their website (below) for more information about how you can become involved!

Image courtesy of KCSAR

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