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Boat Crew  & Watchstander Training Aid
Search and Rescue Fundamentals

Mission Organization:

Define Search and Rescue:

Search and Rescue is defined as "the use of available personnel and resources in the rendering of aid to persons and property in distress."

List the eight major duties of the SAR Coordinator (SC):

State the position responsible for planning the SAR mission:

The SAR Coordinator (SC) ensures SAR operations are coordinated efficiently through the use of available SAR resources. To achieve this, SCs may make SAR agreements with Federal, State, local, and private agencies, providing for the maximum practicable cooperation. Agreements with foreign SAR authorities may be made only as prescribed by Service directives. In the Coast Guard, the SC is usually the District Commander.

State the function of the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC):

Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) personnel usually function as SMC and control and coordinate SAR operations within an assigned Search and Rescue Region (SRR). In the Coast Guard, the RCC is normally a function of the District Command Center.

State the position, which controls the SRUs on scene:

An On Scene Commander (OSC) conducts the SAR mission on scene using the resources made available by the SMC and should safely carry out the Search Action Plan. If the SMC does not provide a sufficiently detailed SAR Action Plan, the OSC completes the SMC duties for on scene operations, notifying the SMC. An OSC has full operational authority of the SMC and operational control of all SRUs on scene.

State the required advanced notice the SRU should provide to the OSC prior to arrival on scene: 15 minutes

List the five response stages for any SAR incident:

List the two most important pieces of information obtained during the awareness stage:

List the five SAR support components:

List the three emergency phase classifications:

Define Datum:

The most probable location of the search object corrected for movement over a period of time.

State the best source of information on total water current:

Total Water Current (TWC) is," the sum of all the water currents that might be acting upon a search object in any given locality."

Total Water Current is best determined by inserting Data Marker Buoys (DMBs) around the Last Known Position (LKP) of a search target.

State the forces involved in determining total water current:

Define Leeway:

Leeway (LW) relates to the movement of an object through the water due to the pushing force of the wind. Most marine craft have a portion of the hull and superstructure exposed above the water. The more exposed area the object has, the greater the wind forces on the object.

State the proper size search area for the coastal model search:

06 nm, search radius

Define track spacing:

The distance between two adjacent parallel search legs is known as track spacing. The desired track spacing is a function of detection capability. The more difficult the target is to detect due to the weather or the size of the search object, the smaller the track spacing should be.

Determine uncorrected sweep width:

Uncorrected sweep width is a distance in nautical miles used for measuring detection capability. The distance is such that the probability of detecting the target outside that range is equal to the probability of missing the target inside the range.

NOTE: Locate the Uncorrected Sweep Width Table for the type of SRU (fixed wing, helicopter, vessel, or small boat) in the National Search and Rescue Manual, Volume II, tables 4-4 thru 4-10.

State the three correction factors you use to determine corrected sweep width:

Calculate corrected sweep width:

  1. W = Wu X Fw X Ff X Fv

  2. W - Corrected Width

  3. Wu - Uncorrected Width

  4. Fw - Weather Correction

  5. Ff - Fatigue Correction

  6. Fv - Search Aircraft Speed Correction

  7. X- Multiplied By

NOTE: Locate the Tables in the NSM, Volume II, tables 4-4 thru 4-10, to complete the equation.

State the correct formula for determining coverage factor:

Coverage Factor is:

1) A measure of search effectiveness or quality.

2) An intermediate calculation when developing probability of detection.

3) Ratio of sweep width to track spacing.

Example: C = W (sweep width)

S (track spacing)

Given a (W) of 3.1 and a (S) of 2.0 the coverage factor is 1.55

1.55 = 3.1 /2.0

Determine Probability of Detection:

Probability of Detection (POD) is the probability that a search object will be detected on the first search, provided it is in the area searched. It measures search results. After determining coverage factor use the graph in the NSM, labeled "Maritime Probability of Detection", Chapter 4, PG 4-13.

Identify the meaning of search pattern letter designators:

The first letter indicates search pattern type-

1) Track line T

2) Parallel P

3) Creeping Line C

4) Square S

5) Sector V

6) Barrier B

The second letter indicates the number of SRUs in the same search area-

1) Single-Unit S

2) Multi-Unit M

The third letter indicates amplifying/supplementary information-

1) Radar of Return Search R

2) Coordinated C

3) Loran L

4) Aural A

5) Non-Return Search N

6) Drift Compensated D

State the items that you should consider when selecting a search pattern:

1) Accuracy of Datum

2) Size and detect-ability of the search object

3) Size and shape of the search area

4) Time available for search

5) Number and type of SRUs

6) En route and on scene weather

7) Navigational ability of the SRUs

8) Desired POD

Track Line Search Pattern:

A Track line (T) search pattern is used when the only information available is the search targets known of projected track line. This search pattern is usually the first search action since it is assumed that the target is near track and will be easily seen or will signal the SRU. Searching a datum line (intended track line corrected for drift) should be evaluated, as it can be a return or non-return pattern. If a single-unit non-return (TSN) is conducted, the SRU searches down the track line of datum line. For a single-unit return pattern (TSR), offset the search legs one-half track space (S) either side of the track/datum line.

Parallel Search Pattern:

A Parallel (P) search pattern should be used when the search area is large, there is equal probability of the target being anywhere in the search area, datum information is fair, and uniform coverage is desired throughout the area. The pattern may be used when the degree of detection may have an equal probability of being anywhere in the search area.

The search legs are parallel to the search area's major axis (longest side oriented down the drift line). Commence Search Point (CSP) is located onehalf track space inside the search area in the specified corner.

Creeping Line Search Pattern:

A Creeping Line (C) search pattern is used when the search area is large, uniform coverage is desired, datum information is fair, and there is more chance of the target being in one end of the search area then the other.

The search legs are parallel to the search area's minor axis (shortest side of the search area or 90 degrees off of the major axis).

Square Search Pattern:

A Square (S) search pattern is used when datum is established within close limits and uniform coverage is desired. The first leg is usually oriented down drift (if it is not practical to search the first leg down drift, then another first leg direction may be used). All turns are 90 degrees to the right and a second is performed by shifting the pattern 45 degrees to the right.

Sector Search Pattern:

A Sector (V) search pattern is used when datum is established with a high degree of confidence and the target is difficult to detect. The search unit passes through datum several times, each time increasing the chances of finding the target.

 The pattern resembles the spokes of a wheel, with the center of the wheel at datum. It is the only pattern with a circular area of coverage. The datum may be marked with a floating object such as a DMB. By marking the center of the search pattern, the SRU has a chance to check its navigation each time the SRU passes near the center of the search pattern. A 60-degree sector search is normally used which consist of nine equal legs, each leg having a length equal to the radius of the search area. The first leg is usually down drift. Although the center of the search area is covered very well, the outer limits of the area are not covered as well.

If you complete the first search of second search of the Sector search patterns with no results, consider using another pattern, i.e., Square or Parallel for more uniform area coverage. If a second sector search is performed, shift the pattern 30 degrees to the right. For coverage factor and POD calculations the track spacing of a Sector search is considered to be one-half the radius.

Barrier Search Pattern:

A Barrier (B) search pattern is used in an area where a strong current exists. The search area lies along the path of the current. There are three versions of this pattern:

1) Advancing

2) Stationary

3) Retreating

Select the radio transmission proword associated with distress, urgency, and safety:

1) Distress = MAYDAY

Conveys craft or person is threatened by grave or imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.

2) Urgency = PAN PAN

A station (craft or person) has a very urgent transmission concerning the safety of a craft or person.

3) Safety = SECURITE

A station (craft or person) is about to transmit a message concerning safety of navigation or give important meteorological warnings.

List the three on scene SAR frequencies:

1) 282.8 MHz UHF Joint/combined on scene SAR and DF.

2) 156.3 MHz VHF-FM merchant ship and Coast Guard on scene SAR, (Ch 6).

3) 123.1 MHz VHF-AM International voice on scene SAR.

Select the required time interval for SITREP submission:

SITREPS should be submitted as soon as details of the case become clear and at least every 04 hours during operations.

SITREPS should contain the following information:

Select the assignment responsible for development of the Search Action


The Search Action Plan is normally developed by the SMC and is used to formally pass action required of SRUs and other agencies actively involved in the SAR mission.

The Search Action Plan contains the following:

State the type of ELTs/ EPIRBs which use a coded ID:

Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTS) on aircraft and Emergency Position

Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) on ships are designed to allow satellites to track and signal RCCs concerning units in distress. All emergency transmitters will have a homing signal on 121.5 kHz or 243.0 MHz. Though the new 406 emergency transmitters communicate with the satellites using a data burst method, on scene units can still locate them by use of direction finding equipment tuned to their homing frequency. The new 406 transmitters send a coded ID signal to the satellite, which is in turn transmitted, to a ground station. Controllers can check the ID against a registration list and then call the owner to ensure the unit is actually in distress.

State the procedure you use to establish the initial search area:

The procedure for establishing the initial search area is located in the National SAR Manual Section 2. F.

State the correct initial response search pattern:

1) Surface SRUs should use expanding Square (SS) when there is little or no other information.

2) Surface SRUs should use sector Search (VS) or Expanding Square (SS) when there is a high degree of confidence in DATUM.

State the information the OSC should pass to the SMC in the first SITREP:

On scene weather conditions

Determine the correct initial track spacing for a SAR situation:

List the characteristics of the SRU best qualified to be an OSC:

NOTE: If you happen to be the first unit on scene, you will, by default, be acting as the OSC until a better-qualified unit arrives.

Identify the proper use of the Maritime Assistance Request Broadcast:

 In a Non-Distress SAR case when alternate assistance is unavailable or cannot be on scene within 1 hour or less, a Maritime Assistance Broadcast can be made to determine if someone in the area can come to the mariner's assistance.

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Last Modified 12/21/2016