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Inland SAR Course Overview

The 5-day Inland SAR Planning course is a comprehensive, "graduate-level" look at search theory and its application to land and air searches for missing persons and aircraft, focusing on wilderness, not urban, searches. The course consists of classroom lessons and practical, tabletop exercises. This course does not incorporate field training. Emphasis is on the planning necessary for effective area-type searching during an extended search using Probability of Success (POS), rather than just a few elements of POC or POD, to allocate limited resources to their best effect. In essence, what to do after the rapid (hasty) search and specialty resources have not found the search object. Additional topics include pre-plan development, legal aspects, NIMS ICS applied to SAR, the federal role in SAR, and related subjects. The course does not teach search tactics or technical procedures, as those are well covered from other readily available sources.

The course is directed toward SAR leaders in federal, state, and local emergency services and law enforcement, as well as Civil Air Patrol, international, and volunteer SAR agencies -- those few people who are responsible for the planning and overall conduct of inland search missions. The target audience includes on-scene incident commanders and their planners, operations leaders, and up-channel reporting chain. The general searcher or search team leader, while arguably the most important part of the SAR team, will not find this course useful. Aiming to "find the objective fast," the course centers on tools to help SAR decision makers determine where to search, how to divide an area between limited search resources, and how to craft the overall search effort to gain the best increases in likelihood of success at each step. The tools are mathematically based and not for the faint of heart; they help quantify the uncertainties of the search problem to allow consistent application throughout a mission.

Classes begin promptly at 0800 on the convening date and graduate by 1530 on the fifth day. Prior to class, students should review and be conversant on the following from their own agencies in order to make class discussions more useful and help integrate class materials with their own search environments back home:

  • Search pre-plans
  • Decision making guidelines for where/when/how to search
  • Agreements and relationships with other SAR agencies
  • How their agency organizes on scene
  • Recent search missions
  • A firm grounding in SAR terminology and employment techniques, practical SAR experience, basic arithmetic and calculator skills, an understanding of local SAR mission management requirements, and an open mind are essential.
  • Download and review prior to start of class - Dennis Martin Search

Course Fee: There is NO course or tuition fee for U.S. students (volunteers and government employees) directly involved in SAR planning and management activities.

  • The Inland SAR Planning Course is administered by the United States Air Force Element of the National SAR School, on behalf of the United States Inland SAR Coordinator, to enhance SAR education and to foster a cooperative SAR network in our country.
  • The school supplies students with all of the material required for the course; although, as with all schools, students should bring their own note-taking materials.
  • Students are responsible for their own personal and travel expenses: transportation, hotel accommodations, meals, etc. The only exception to this rule are those courses administered at USCG Training Center Yorktown, where berthing is offered to the students 'on-base' at no charge.


  • SAR Manager Program -  This program is available to graduates of the Inland SAR Planning Course.  It is provided to each student that attends the course on CD.  If you would like an updated copy of the program, please contact the school at to arrange for a copy.
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Last Modified 3/25/2014