Search and Rescue and Emergency Worker Programs

Search and Rescue (SAR) in the State of Washington is governed primarily by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) chapter 38.52. This law defines search and rescue, assigns responsibilities for SAR, establishes the position and duties of the state coordinator for SAR Operations (SAR coordinator), and establishes the extensive liability protection and compensation program which protects SAR volunteers in the State of Washington. Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 118-04 implements the provisions of RCW 38.52 by establishing the procedures and qualifications for registration of "emergency workers" (volunteers) and explains how the compensation program is administered.

The responsibility for land search and rescue operations rests with the “local chief law enforcement officer” (usually the County Sheriff). State law assigns responsibility for air search for downed or missing civil aircraft to the Department of Transportation, Aviation Division (RCW 47.68). Upon location of the downed aircraft the incident becomes a land SAR operation under the direction and control of the chief law enforcement officer in whose jurisdiction the incident site is located.

Local directors of emergency management coordinate support for SAR operations in their jurisdictions and register volunteers in accordance with WAC 188-04. The state SAR Coordinator is responsible for resource coordination, multi-jurisdiction operations coordination, and administration of the Emergency Worker Program. There are 600-700 SAR missions a year in the state.

When appropriate, the coordinator manages the state's role in Emergency Support Function (ESF) 9, Urban Search and Rescue (National Response Plan) and may activate the state’s Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) for operations coordination in large and/or multi-jurisdictional SAR missions. More information about the RCC is below.

Search and Rescue resources within the state come primarily from citizen volunteers, more than 5,000 strong, who cooperate with local law enforcement, giving of their time and personal resources to train and to search for and rescue lost and injured people.

The initial point of contact for local SAR coordinators or emergency management offices when requesting additional SAR mission resources is the State Emergency Operations Officer (SEOO). Authorization for the use of the statewide SAR, SAR2 and SAR3 frequencies can be viewed at SAR Frequency Authorization Letter (PDF).

Rescue Coordination Center (RCC)

Lessons learned from response operations in major disasters point to the need for the state to have the capability to coordinate massive search and rescue response operations during large scale events.

The Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) is an extension of the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activated in an emergency or disaster to support local search and rescue missions by coordinating the state, out-of-state, federal, and international search and rescue operations conducted in support of the incident.

As an extension of the state EOC, the RCC may be co-located or deployed to a location in proximity to the incident site. Requests for assistance from the jurisdiction(s) affected by the disaster will be received, processed, and prioritized. The RCC will coordinate the reception, staging, preparation for employment, and deployment to the scene of all state, out-of-state, and federal search and rescue resources responding to the disaster.

Emergency Worker Program

The Emergency Worker Program is a volunteer oriented program established by RCW 38.52.310.  Emergency workers are provided liability, medical, and personal property coverage as well as reimbursement for some incidental expenses while deployed on state-approved incidents and training events.  There are 18 classes or categories of emergency workers including Communications, Medical, and Search and Rescue.  Full details on the program are contained in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) chapter 118-04.

Search and Rescue and Emergency Worker Forms

Emergency Worker Registration Card

Note: this card is in two files - in reverse order to facilitate back-to-back printing.

Emergency Worker Identification Card

Note: this card is also in two files - in reverse order to facilitate back-to-back printing. 

Evidence Search Mission Request Form:

Mission and Training Forms:

Emergency Worker Claim Forms:

Payee Registration Form:

For additional information, please contact Chris Long, State Search and Rescue Coordinator, at (253) 512-7024.

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