Frequently Asked Questions

WHY CAN'T I HELP WITH A SEARCH?
How Do I Join Larimer County Search and Rescue?
How does the 'Joining' process work?
Why Can't I help you search for the lost child? I have horses and 4-Wheelers and I hike this area all the time!
Who is legally responsible for Search and Rescue in Colorado?
Are you employees of the Sheriff's Office?
Are there any paid positions on the Team?
Who pays for Search and Rescue?
If I join, how much money will I spend?
If I join, how much time will it take?
What about using dogs for search and rescue?
Do I need any special skills or training before I can become a member?
What about medical training?
Where do you do search and rescue?
What about water rescues?
What other responsibilities will I have besides doing search and rescue?
How does a typical SAR mission begin?
When does a typical SAR mission begin and how long does it last?
If I already own outdoor gear will I be able to use it for SAR?
What is BASART?
What is the age range of your membership?
What kinds of jobs do your members typically have outside of SAR?
Why do people join LCSAR?
I am a patch collector. Can I buy or trade for one of your patches?
Are you involved in disasters like floods, forest fires, plane crashes?
How do I get a job in search and rescue?
I am not trained in search and rescue. Can I help out on a mission?


WHY CAN'T I HELP WITH A SEARCH?

We often get calls, e-mails, and various other requests from concerned citizens asking what they can do to help with the search for a lost child, friend, or family member. This is perfectly understandable and commendable behavior, but we usually have to tell these folks that it really takes a lot more than just good intentions, random skills, and common outdoor equipment to be an effective searcher.

One of the most important things that is required of a professional SAR person is the demonstrated ability to not get lost or injured themselves. The second and almost equally important skill is to know how to search in the environment where the person is lost. The only way to acquire these skills is to get professional training from experts in the area where the person is lost. Constant practice using these skills and routinely being tested on them by a group of peer professionals are paramount.

We hope you can understand that when you call to offer to help, and we have to tell you no, there is a reason for it. We follow a process that has been proven over the decades of search theory, and practice from all over the world.

There is some good news here - it only requires dedication and ample time. Larimer County Search and Rescue has successfully trained people to be SAR professionals from all walks of life and all reasonable ages. If you really want to be an active participant in this profession, we can always use the help. We can train you to become part of our team and then do this type of work "so that others may live".

To express interest in joining the team, please visit our Joining LCSAR page.

or call:

John Lee (President) at 970-222-9872 or

Rick Arnold (LCSAR PIO) at 970-744-0634 or

Travis Warziniack (Recruitment and Retention) at 970-372-8028.

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How do I join Larimer County Search and Rescue?

For information about joining Larimer County Search and Rescue, please visit our Joining LCSAR page.

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How does the 'Joining' process work?

Once you fill out the online interest form (which can be submitted any time of year) someone will be in touch with you to explain the current application and membership process. Usually we have mandatory orientation sessions around the first of the year. You should get a call or an e-mail giving you the exact dates. You must attend one of these where you will get an application to participate in our BASART (Basic Search and Rescue Training) Class. When we receive your application, and any required fees, you will be scheduled for an interview. Shortly after the interview you will be notified if you have been accepted into the BASART Class which begins around March 1. If you attend all the BASART classes and pass the final evaluation of your performance you will be granted membership in LCSAR around June 1.

For more information about joining Larimer County Search and Rescue, please visit our Joining LCSAR page.

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Why Can't I help you search for the lost child? I have horses and 4-Wheelers and I hike this area all the time!

Searching for lost people, particularly children, is a difficult and complicated task. There have been numerous documented cases where untrained volunteers who wish to insert themselves into this type of situation often destroy valuable evidence, and frighten the lost person. You should consider these consequences of your actions before you call and offer your services once every ten years when these searches are advertised by the national media. We desperately need professionally trained volunteers who are available 24/7. Please call now and learn how you can help us every day!

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Who is legally responsible for Search and Rescue in Colorado?

By Colorado State statute the Colorado county Sheriff is responsible for Search and Rescue in their county.

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Are you employees of the Sheriff's Office?

No, we are un-paid search and rescue professionals and we all have regular jobs in the community. To reiterate, we do not have any paid positions on the team.

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Are there any paid positions on the Team?

No, we have no paid positions on the Team. We are 100% unpaid.

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Who pays for Search and Rescue?

Our members pay for their own equipment, gas, food, outside SAR training, medical training, etc.

We receive financial support from the community by way of individual donations, foundation grants and fund-raising events. We are a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) Colorado Corporation and all donations are tax-deductible.

The debate continues in many venues about the cost of SAR and billing those who get in trouble. We believe that charging the people we help will only delay the call that requests our service, and time is always critical when people are lost and injured.

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If I join, how much money will I spend?

You will need to own around $1,500.00 plus of personal equipment. This may seem high but experience has shown us that higher quality gear will hold up better in tough conditions and is a better long-term investment, and that means spending more money. New members have to pay an application fee and a BASART training fee. There are yearly membership dues and pager fees. There is also the cost of traveling to a SAR practice and SAR mission. We try to do a lot of carpooling but there will be extra gas money involved while you join us in our frequent explorations of the county and region. If you are a gadget freak you may want to consider a 2nd mortgage on the house cause there are lots of gadgets in our business but that's your choice. Simpler is probably better.

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If I join, how much time will it take?

We say that the average active person will spend about 400 hours each year doing something related to SAR. We have training classes on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Administrative meetings are on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm. The 4th and 5th Wednesdays occasionally will be used for medical training. At least 2 weekends a month are scheduled for field training exercises which typically last at least 8 hours. We have at least 2 big fund raising events each year that are 2-day and 6-day long projects. Public Education classes are taught weekly at various locations and venues in the community and typically take 2 members at least 2 hours per class plus drive time. SAR skill building trainings are held on Tuesday or Thursday night and occur every other week for 3 - 4 hours in the evening and focus on special and technical skills that require more frequent refreshing.

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What about using dogs for search and rescue?

Search dogs are a very valuable tool in SAR work. Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado (SARDOC) has all the information you need to see how dogs are integrated into SAR situations and how you can get involved. All of our team members who are also dog handlers are required to be members of SARDOC and must pass all SARDOC testing in order to become a certified dog handler. We can tell you that dog handlers choose and own their own dogs. Handlers spend at least one day a week training with their dog. It takes an average of two years to fully certify a search dog and handler team. Any of the larger breed working dogs usually are a good choice for a search dog but you can't tell for sure until you begin the training. Check out SARDOC's website at www.sardoc.org

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Do I need any special skills or training before I can become a member?

We will teach you all you need to know about search and rescue but if you are already comfortable in the back country it will allow you to focus on learning the technical skills necessary for SAR. Folks who have spent little time in the back country tend to have a harder time. When we accept individuals who've never been off-trail or carried an actual pack, they tend to struggle and end up not being very active members.

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What about medical training?

All of our advanced field ratings require a rating of advanced First Aid or First Responder and you will be expected to obtain that training on your own. However, as funding permits, we often can pay all or part of the normal fees associated with this training. Continuing Education medical training is also a part of our regular curriculum to help our members maintain their medical ratings. We encourage members to become EMT's but only if they have an interest in pursuing this higher skill level and want to spend the additional time and money.

A fair number of our missions do not involve medical complications, but when they do, the appropriate medical resources are dispatched to the scene. The medical resources that can be dispatched to assist us are an ambulance from the nearest hospital, one of the county Quick Response Teams, or an air ambulance (helicopter). The patient is then transported to the hospital by the appropriate medical resource.

Do to the inherent dangers of our profession we recognize that medical assistance may be needed for us and since much of our training is in the back country we like to have medical people close by. We are happy to report that we only see an injured SAR person about once every five years. We practice our medical skills frequently but putting them to use in a real medical emergency is a rare occurrence.

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Where do you do search and rescue?

Our primary area of operations is Larimer County, Colorado. We will also send SAR resources out of county and out of state.

We have a Memorandum Of Understanding with the Larimer County Sheriff that requires us to keep personnel and equipment available at all times for emergencies in the county.

SAR Teams throughout the Rocky Mountain Region assist one another whenever extra resources are needed. This mutual aid also extends outside the region to the national and international arena. Our specialty is mountain search and rescue and we do not currently do any urban SAR training although we have been effectively utilized on evidence searches in the urban setting. We can also assist during floods and plane crashes in the wilderness.

We are also included in the county's disaster plan in the event of a major disaster.

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What about water rescues?

The Larimer County Dive Rescue Team are the water rescue professionals. We have joint training practices where we review those skills and teamwork exercises that are common between the groups but we try to keep our feet dry at all times!

We assist the dive team on missions when requested.

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What other responsibilities will I have besides doing search and rescue?

We have a very active Public Education Program that focuses on preventive search and rescue. We believe one of our fundamental responsibilities is to give everyone in the community the knowledge they need to prevent outdoor emergencies before they happen. We also expect our members to help with fund-raising, with our own internal training, with maintaining our technical equipment and vehicles, and with the numerous administrative tasks that keep the business running smoothly.

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How does a typical SAR mission begin?

A friend or family member of the lost subject will call 911 to report an overdue or injured person in the back country. Dispatch will notify the on-duty Sheriff's Emergency Services Specialist who will page the on-duty LCSAR SAR Manager and they will begin planning the response based on the time of day, weather, condition and age of the lost person and several other factors. The rest of the Team will be paged with basic information about the situation and resources will begin heading to the incident.

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When does a typical SAR mission begin and how long does it last?

We can't really anticipate when a call will come or what it will be about. We have just as many calls during the week as we have on the weekend. We tend to get more calls in the evening and they will last until morning. We usually don't spend more that 12 hours on searches or more than 6 hours on rescues. But, sooner or later, you will be on a rescue that begins at noon and ends at noon the next day or a search that can last for multiple days.

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If I already own outdoor gear will I be able to use it for SAR?

Much of the personal equipment we require our members to own is basic, good quality hiking, camping, and climbing gear but there is a possibility that the equipment you currently own will not be ideal for our situation. We spend a lot of time in BASART talking about the pros and cons of all types of outdoor gear. We don't require that you own anything before you start, and in fact, would recommend that you wait until you get this information from us in class before you make any new purchases or try to decide whether the gear you already have is appropriate.

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What is BASART?

Basic Search And Rescue Training is a 3-1/2 month long period of time that starts in late February and goes to early June during which time you will be required to attend Wednesday classes from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. and weekend field training exercises at various places in the county. The weekend exercises typically begin at 8:00 am on Saturday or Sunday and can go all day. A few of the classes will begin around 5:00 pm and go into the night so you get familiar with the not-so-unusual late searches and their associated hazards and complications. Training occurs most but not every Wednesday or weekend during this period. A final field exercise that comes just before graduation lasts almost 24 hours and begins on a Saturday afternoon. It is designed to bring together all your recently learned SAR skills and test them in real-time under tough conditions. After successfully completing BASART testing and training you will be qualified to respond to SAR incidents in spring, summer and fall, below timberline. You may then continue to take our classes and develop additional skills to acquire rescue, snow, and leadership ratings.

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What is the age range of your membership?

We have mostly 25 - 45 year old men and women but we have many members that are under 25 and a several that are over 45. The under 25's are usually college students and it is difficult to balance good study habits with a busy SAR schedule but a few have managed that challenge very well. Our 45+ members are usually very fit and are always trying to keep up with the youngsters.

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What kinds of jobs do your members typically have outside of SAR?

We have Mechanical Engineers, Nurses, Computer Techs, Artists, Biologists, Mechanics, Machine Operators, Knife Makers, Police Officers, Accountants, Attorneys, Moms, Dads, Teachers, ... maybe a list of jobs that members haven't had would be shorter?

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Why do people join LCSAR?

The most common response we get to that question is that people want to give something back to the community and this allows them to do that and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. Most of us are also fascinated and challenged by the outdoor skills that we use to do search and rescue.

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I am a patch collector. Can I buy or trade for one of your patches?

The Larimer County Search and Rescue, Inc. logo is a Registered Trade Mark. Only LCSAR members can acquire our patch and it is only to be displayed by current team members during team functions. We do not trade, sell, or give away patches. Members are required to surrender all patches if they leave the team.

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Are you involved in disasters like floods, forest fires, plane crashes?

Unfortunately, in recent times, we are not as involved as we had been in the past. A part of the reason is that these events present hazards that are different from what we normally see. We do not specifically train for them. There are specialized teams at the national level that have the skills and gear to be more effective and safe. These teams have been activated and have responded very quickly to most of the recent disasters. Members can become involved in these teams but it requires additional training, travel, time, and gear beyond what is required to do wilderness search and rescue.

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How do I get a job in search and rescue?

Choosing a career in search and rescue rescue can lead to a very rough road.

Most search and rescue positions in this country are on an un-paid basis. Many  people involved in search and rescue have primary paying jobs in other fields to make a living.

However, there are several job types that can have search and rescue as a secondary duty to the primary responsibility. Park rangers and sheriff officers are such careers. The primary job of these careers is often law enforcement. Search and rescue is a small part of the life of rangers and deputies. Another avenue is to join the military. The Coast Guard is very involved in marine search and rescue. The Air Force also has pararescue personnel that perform search and rescue work as their primary responsibility.

The key to getting into such a position is to have years of experience in many fields, including several years as a law enforcement officer, many years of  mountaineering, several years of up-paid search and rescue work, and some experience in emergency medicine.

Education can play a very crucial role in landing such jobs. A good candidate might have a college or university degree. For rangers, natural  science is the key - biology, forestry, geology, etc. For police work, social science is desired as well as psychology.

Paid jobs that include seach and rescue as a duty are very competitive and hard to find. If you choose to go down this path, be prepared for disappointment: long application processes, lots of competition, tons of politics, ....

If you truly want to get into search and rescue, we would suggest the  following:

  1. Stay in school. Go to college. Attend a university and get an education that will provide you with a good paying job.


  2. Gain experience in mountaineering, rock-climbing, hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing, winter mountaineering, desert, etc. Take classes. Good search and rescue people have many years of experience. There is a saying in the search and rescue community - You are a mountaineer first and a rescuer second.


  3. Join a search and rescue team. Contact the local sheriff to ask about teams in a particular area, or search the world wide web. Quite  frequently, you can attend a college or university in a mountainous region that has a search and rescue team, gaining valuable experience while getting your education.


  4. Be patient. Search and rescue is something that requires talent that is acquired over years. You cannot take a 3-month course and be set to save the world despite what some organizations will tell you about their training.

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I am not trained in search and rescue. Can I help out?

The following article appeared in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Fort Collins, Colorado in the Soapbox column in December, 1999. The article is in response to a letter to the editor regarding the frustration people, untrained in search and rescue, were feeling in not being allowed to help out in the search for the missing 3 year old Jaryd Atadero on the Big South Trail in the Poudre Canyon in October of 1999.

SOAPBOX - Linae Warden

Understand, appreciate LCSAR's role.

I am responding to Diayn Revis and Marti Turner, who wanted to help search for Jaryd and expressed frustration that their offer was turned down by search officials. Jaryd's story is one that captured the hearts of many. It is laudable that Revis and Turner wanted to help.

Larimer County Search and Rescue (LCSAR) is composed entirely of volunteers who are unpaid professionals, operating under the direct supervision of the Larimer County Sheriff. The team dedicates 300 to 500 hours each year to training and practice. Members provide all their own personal equipment (and dogs) at considerable expense. Although strictly volunteer, the level of training and practice parallels that of other professional emergency service providers, such as law enforcement, paramedics and fire departments. Most team members are EMTs.

I applaud your desire to help, but I am certain you don't volunteer to help the fire department or ambulance paramedics, even if children are in danger. You are not trained to respond to these emergencies. Understand that a mountain search is an emergency, which requires highly trained, experienced personnel, functioning as a team.

A search area is like a crime scene in that it contains subtle clues. Untrained people in the field increase the likelihood that these clues will be destroyed. An area searched by untrained personnel cannot be considered thoroughly searched. Research shows that that in a search, more is not better.

The Larimer County Sheriff is responsible for the safety of everyone in the field. He cannot take someone's word for it that they are equipped and qualified. If someone gets hurt, the team has to pull precious resources off the search for this new emergency. When this has happened, "independent" volunteers actually hindered the search. If additional personnel are needed, the counties of Colorado send trained personnel.

Larimer County Emergency Services personnel must keep the media informed because the public has a right to know what's happening. In any emergency, the managing agency has assigned spokespersons to keep the media informed with accurate, pertinent information.

Again, I applaud and encourage your desire to help and offer several ways to do so, focused on prevention:

  • Donate money to LCSAR for supplies needed to deliver school programs that teach children to stay put if they are lost. They teach parents to make scent articles for the dogs and shoe prints for the tracking team that increase the search's chances of success.


  • Invite members of LCSAR to speak to your local schools, clubs and organizations.


  • If you have a large parcel of land, offer it to the dog teams for practice searches.


  • Volunteer to be search subjects for the search dog teams at weekly practice sessions.


  • Attend LCSAR's Wilderness Survival, Navigation and Avalanche Safety programs.


  • Donate to LCSAR, a nonprofit organization. Larimer County has long provided some funding for the most essential equipment, but is insufficient to provide for backup equipment or repairs. Some seasons it's not unusual for more than one search to be in progress simultaneously. Your donation would be applied toward specialized search equipment.

Please give Larimer County Emergency Services and the volunteer members of LCSAR their due. Their dedication, professionalism, skill in the field and the education they offer the community is nothing short of heroic.

For more information on how you can help, please contact LCSAR at the ways given on the "Contact Is" page. They are eager to answer questions and to coordinate donations of time, equipment or anything else that supports LCSAR goals.

By Linae Warden, former President of LCSAR.

And from a private citizen...

Becoming an LCSAR member has intrigued me for the last couple of years, but every winter when I look at the time requirements I balk. Especially now that I have young children. I do want to extend my gratitude to all the members who sacrifice their time and own money, with others people’s lives and safety as a priority. The reason for this inquiry is that I would still like to volunteer my time and be involved, but maybe at a different level. So I was wondering if there are board or committee opportunities available with LCSAR? I am a 30+ year old male who has enjoyed the mountains around Fort Collins for several years now (originally from back east). I am a local business person who has experience with marketing and keeping in touch with databases. Please let me know if there are opportunities available.

Thanks for your interest in LCSAR. Many years ago we had a Community Board that was composed of business leaders from the area who helped us through the first few years of becoming a corporation. Since that group was disbanded we have not felt the need for the general public to help us with any of the business or search and rescue aspects of the corporation / team. Every associate / member has gone through our basic SAR training program and has been active in the field for at least a few years before settling in to one of the administrative roles either instead of or in addition to their field roles. I'm not saying it is right or wrong it is just the process we have chosen to follow and most would say that it has worked out well. Perhaps it helps form stronger bonds and a better perspective of who we are and what we do. I'm sorry I can't be more accommodating but I can promise you that if you go through our BASART program it will be one of the best experiences you will ever have and you can do it at almost any age and stage of your life. --Mike Fink, Public Affairs, LCSAR

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