Marin County Sheriff's Office
Search & Rescue

What we do

You know that we are the Search and Rescue team, but what is it that we do?

  • Search for missing people in the wilderness and urban settings all over California

  • Get paged out for a search mission (usually at 2:00AM in the pouring rain) and eagerly respond to the command post

  • Have two general meetings and one full day of training each month on the calendar

  • Are all medically trained to at least the Emergency Medical Responder level (training offered at minimal cost by the team)

  • Conduct evidence searches for various law enforcement agencies in Marin

  • Are one of 20 Mountain Rescue teams in California so you can (with proper training) respond to the middle of the high sierras year round

  • Have a bunch of neat equipment that has been donated, purchased through contributions or through the Sheriff’s Office

  • Are a volunteer organization, so we provide all of our personal gear ourselves (this can run several hundred dollars)

  • Have a fleet of vehicles from the Sheriff’s Dept. with lots of amazing SAR gear

  • Are made up of both adult and youth members

  • Raise our own money for equipment

  • Conduct 50+ operations each year

  • Assist with natural disasters, and pretty much anything which involves injured or missing people

  • Go to work and school after searching all night

  • Enjoy what we do

A typical wilderness search is for a hiker that is overdue on Mount Tam, reported by a family member or friend. Within an hour of getting the call from the Sheriff’s Office we will have 20–30 members on scene starting a search. Most searches resolve within 8–12 hours but some may continue on for 48–72 hours or longer. All our members are volunteers so they come to searches when they can but family and work come first, we aren’t expecting you to give up your life. After all, it is a volunteer commitment.

Marin County Search and Rescue uses many different resources. Some of the most common are:

Ground Units

Two or more foot searchers are dispatched from the command post, each unit with a radio and their 24 hour pack. These teams are given maps of the area, an assignment, and a briefing regarding the subject. They search their assigned areas conducting voice calls for the subject, looking for tracks and other clues. These teams can expect to either stay in the field for extended periods, or go through several shorter assignments.

Mountain Rescue Team

Mountain Rescue Team (MRA) members undergo additional training to perform Snow and Ice Rescue, Technical Rock Rescue, Man Tracking, and downed aircraft locating (via ELT), all in an alpine environment. These teams are deployed in the High Sierras all year round to search for lost backpackers, skiers, mountaineers and other individuals lost in alpine environments. This special team contains ice climbers, rock climbers, mountaineers and backcountry skiers who are well trained in search and rescue and are able to be self sufficient for several days in the backcountry.

Search Dogs

Search Dogs are utilized, and are either bloodhounds or air-scent dogs. These dogs have extensive training before they are certified to be used by OES. Bloodhounds look for a particular person, using a piece of clothing known to have been worn by the subject. An air-scent dog will locate anybody in a certain area, they are good for clearing large areas. These teams consist of the dog handler, the dog (of course), and one or more search team members.

Mounted Posse

Mounted Posse members are used to clear longer, more strenuous assignments. In general a posse team can clear three times the distance that a ground team can. The Mounted Posse is its own entity sanctioned by the Sheriff’s Department, just as the Search and Rescue team is.

Air Patrol

Air Patrol will be used on some of our searches if the conditions permit. They are useful in conducting visual searches clearing large areas rapidly. They use spotters and fly over the search area in an effort to spot clues or subjects. They are also useful when we cannot reach remote areas with our radios or repeater system. They “orbit” (fly in circles) overhead while monitoring and relaying radio traffic from the command post to remote field teams.

State Park and Open Space Rangers

Rangers are used early on in the search even before we are called if the search is in their area. They conduct quick searches by driving the fire roads and patrolling any bodies of water with their boats. They are utilized by our team later in the search to provide important area knowledge, working closely with the search management team. They do work in these areas everyday, who would know the area better?

Local Law Enforcement Officers

Law enforcement officers are used mainly in urban searches. As in the wilderness, the local police are intimately familiar with the roads and areas in their cities. They will conduct a cursory search of the area by putting out a BOL (be on the Lookout) to all their units. They provide us with investigative information and ground support. They are useful in following up on leads turned up by the search teams or management.

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid is called from surrounding areas when our search resources are used to their limits. All state agencies have a mutual aid agreement that basically says “..when you need help we will come. If we need help, we are going to call you.” This is an agreement all state agencies have in the state of California that also means that the requesting agency will not be billed for the aid. BASARC is a committee that helps the Bay Area teams communicate monthly and retain a working knowledge of the other teams.