Frequently Asked Questions

To whom does Santa Clara County SAR provide service?

Integrated under the Special Operations Division of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, SCCSSAR provides services to the Sheriff's Office and other local law enforcement agencies within the county. Through the California Office of Emergency Services' Mutual Aid program, the team also responds to support major and extended out-of-county incidents for other law enforcement agencies throughout California.

What services does Santa Clara County Sheriff SAR provide?

As outlined in the 'About the Team' section of this website, the team activities cover wilderness and urban missing person search and rescue responses which may also involve rope rescue or water related rescue capabilities. The team also works with the Civil Air Patrol in downed aircraft search, rescue and recovery incidents and is active in community preparedness and preventative SAR education.

How many searches does Santa Clara County Sheriff SAR participate in?

Statistics change from year to year, but on the average the team responds to about 25 searches a year. A significant amount of time is also spent by members in training and preparation, providing medical stand-by support for special community events and performing equipment and facility maintenance.

What type of searches do you go on?

Most of our search responses are wilderness and urban search incidents throughout the county. Over the last couple of years we have performed rescues in Alum Rock Park and Henry Coe State Park, searches in county parks, unincorporated areas and urban settings for child abduction subjects, missing children and adults, Alzheimer and dementia patients, potential suicide cases and for evidence.

Where do you search?

Our primary jurisdiction is within Santa Clara County. This may include county parks, open space, urban areas and parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The team is affiliated with the California State Office of Emergency Services and may therefore be requested to respond to SAR incidents in neighboring counties or, indeed, statewide, under this office's Mutual Aid program.

When do most call outs happen?

This is a very important question. The team is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so call-outs may happen at any time. Frequently, the first call out will come shortly after sunset after a family member has not returned home or vehicle may have been located at a county park after closure.

How long is a typical mission?

An individual incident's length can vary from a few hours to several days. Volunteers usually work in operational periods of 8-12 hours. Local searches typically run 8-24 hours. Rescue incidents will be 4-6 hours. If members respond to out-of-county searches, the time commitment will typically be 24-72 hours.

Is it mandatory to respond to a search?

SCCSSAR is a professional volunteer organization serving the people of Santa Clara County. While it is understood that not all of our members will be available for every search call-out, it is expected that most will respond. Members commit a significant amount of time to the team in training and call-out preparation so most are eager to participate in responses and put all the training into practice in the field. Additionally, the team does have a level of responsibility to supply the necessary resources to meet the search operation requirements. Members' lifestyle and work schedule should be somewhat flexible to allow active participation. If this is not the case in your situation, you may want to reconsider any decision to apply for membership.

How are members notified about a search?

All active team members are notified via pager, SMS and/or e-mail for initial notification. The notification will typically include a call-back number for members to record their availability and will have a recorded message with additional details about the incident. Members are expected to monitor their notification device 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What kind of time commitment is there for training?

Training meetings meet on the first and third Wednesday of the month from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. Additional field training is held on the third Saturday; this is an all-day training. Members are required to attend 70% of the training meetings to maintain active status. Additionally, SCCSSAR has several specialty sub-teams that offer opportunities for further training and skill development. We also encourage members to attend outside training opportunities above and beyond the minimum team requirements.

What type of skills do I need?

Outdoor skills are highly recommended. Search and Rescue is both physically and mentally challenging. Many of our searches are in rough terrain and in adverse weather conditions. Members are trained and tested bi-annually in the fundamental SAR skills, including; navigation, low angle rope skills, sign cutting, search techniques, tracking, CPR and first aid, as well as physical fitness.

What type of equipment will I need?

You will need good hiking boots, a backpack, helmet, headlamp, safety goggles, gloves, raingear and uniform clothes. Members are expected to maintain a 24-hour pack which they have with them at all times. The minimum list of contents for this pack can be found listed via a link to: 24-hour pack equipment. Members carry their response gear in their vehicles for immediate response. In addition to this personal equipment, the team supplies radios, rescue equipment and G.P.S. units.

What are the costs involved?

There are no joining or membership fees for SCCSSAR. Members are expected to provide their own uniforms and personal equipment which, depending on items they already own, may require an investment of around $300. Additionally, members are responsible for their own pager (if choose to use) costs, at a specially negotiated rate of under $10 per month, as well as any expenses (fuel etc.) incurred during responses.

Are members paid for their time in responding to incidents?

No. SCCSSAR is an entirely volunteer organization in which members do not receive any remuneration.

Who joins SCCSSAR?

Membership is open to anyone over 18 years old. Our members represent many diverse walks of life within the local the community. Ages range from the mid-20's to the 70's, with the common links being an enjoyment of the outdoors, a commitment to make a contribution to the team and the community and a desire to actively participate.

Can I use my personal vehicle?

Although the team has access to a number of Sheriff's Office vehicles and members are required to obtain a county driver's license in order to operate these vehicles, most members respond to incidents and training sessions in their personal vehicles. The team's Standard Operating procedures, which are made available to all new members, outline specific guidelines and requirements for the use of such vehicles.

Can I train a canine?

SCCSSAR does not certify dogs for the team. Any member interested in the certification of a canine would need to receive the certification from an outside organization such as CARDA or WOOF. However, the team supports a canine specialty team and does have a number of canine handler members, who actively participate in search call outs.

Does Santa Clara County Sheriff's SAR have specialized teams?

Yes. The team currently supports ATV, Canine and Type I mountain rescue specialty teams. Each specialty team has specific training and testing activities over and above the team's minimum requirements. These teams may also have additional eligibility requirements, depending on the skill sets needed. For further information, please refer to the 'Specialty Teams' page of this website.