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About SAR

What is SAR?
SAR stands for 'Search and Rescue'. The term usually refers to the process of looking for, locating, and/or retrieving a missing person. Sometimes the skills of the group are also used to search for objects during a homicide enquiry.
How does SAR work?
Search and Rescue relies on the combined efforts of professionals (the Police) and trained volunteers. The Hamilton SAR Group is only ever called out by the Police and works closely with the Police at all times.
What other organisations does SAR work together with?
The Hamilton SAR Group works with several organisations including rescue helicopter services, the Air Force and DOC.
Don't the Police do Search and Rescue?
Yes, the Police are responsible for SAR throughout NZ, however many SAR situations require the combined efforts of Police and volunteers.
Do you have to stay out overnight in the bush?
Yes. Sometimes teams will be tasked to search right through the night. On other searches teams will rest in the bush during part of the night before resuming searching the following day. Most of the searches around Hamilton start at night although some happen entirely during daylight hours.

About Hamilton SAR Group

What area does Hamilton SAR Group cover?
The Group works throughout the Waikato and especially Pirongia and the Kaimais. We are often required to support the SAR Groups in Thames, Te Kuiti and Tauranga.
How are SAR volunteers called out to a search. Is there a duty roster?
There is no duty roster. Once you become a probationary member of the Group you are expected to be available for searches on a 24/7 basis. Full members are issued with pagers which will be activated for all callouts. Probationary members are contacted by phone for a search.
What happens if I can't make myself available for a search?
Sometimes a member cannot attend a callout due to work or family commitments. This is acceptable however your availability (whether available or not available) must be notified by pager for each callout.


What training do volunteers have?
Lots! Check out Hamilton SAR Groups training pages and see the extent of the training we provide to both volunteers and professionals. All we ask is that potential volunteers have the appropriate backcountry skills and a commitment to learn. We can train you from there.
My dog is great at finding things, can we help?
Hn SAR Gp would like your help. However, you and your dog would need to be assessed first. If you are assessed as being suitable, then the dog (with you, the handler) will have to be trained to a recognised Search Dog standard. For more information, see LandSAR dog standards.
How many courses do I need to attend before I'll be called out on a search?
Members can be called out on searches as soon as they become probationary members. Learning is on-going for all members and takes place on operations and during training sessions.


What gear are volunteers expected to provide?
Volunteers must provide food, clothing and equipment for their own personal needs. In addition to the usual outdoor clothing, footwear, storm gear, gloves and headwear, SAR volunteers should pack enough food/drink for at least 24 hours. Volunteers should also be prepared to stay out overnight and are expected to liaise with fellow team members about tents/flys/bivvy bags.
What equipment do I need to take to a search?
It depends on the event. As a general guide, unless you are instructed otherwise, personal equipment provided by volunteers includes compass, notebook and pencil, at least one torch (with spare batteries), whistle, cooking equipment, food and drink for initial 24-hour period, sleeping bags/mats, and tentage. Usually you should take a full pack AND a day pack. Depending on your particular task you may need one or the other. Equipment provided by Hamilton SAR Group includes SAR vests, radios, GPS's and maps
What should be in my personal SAR kit?
Volunteers must be prepared to be called out at short notice. Sometimes you will have less than an hour to get your gear ready and travel to the Police Station. Apart from having your tramping gear at the ready, keep a supply of high-energy snack food and suitable food for 24 hours.
What is the basic equipment I need to have before I can become an active SAR member?
All you need is your tramping gear. In addition to your polypro/wool outdoor/fleece clothing, this will include a good pack, backcountry footwear, gaiters, parka and over-trousers, gloves and headgear, sleeping bag and mat/Therm-a-rest, cooker/food utensils, torch and whistle, compass, and personal first aid kit. Access to tentage would also help.


Are there any medical conditions that would preclude me from joining SAR?
Each case is dealt with on its own merits. Factors include the type of role a volunteer intends to fill, and the requirements of that role. When you apply to join SAR, we will ask you to disclose any medical conditions that you have, and any medication that you are taking. Please be honest because we ask these questions for your safety, and for the safety of those around you. Examples of common medical conditions among SAR volunteers include asthma, allergies, diabetes, and impaired vision. If we need more information, we will consult with you and seek medical or pharmacological advice. You can also ask your GP if you are unsure.
Do I have to belong to a tramping club or the like to be a member?
No. Although many of our members belong to outdoor recreation clubs (such as tramping clubs, the Alpine Club, and deerstalker associations), many do not. As a matter of course, Hamilton SAR Group asks prospective members for details of their outdoor experience. (See How to Join for more details.)
How experienced do volunteers need to be?
While we undertake to train SAR members in specialised search and rescue skills, we expect applicants to already have well-developed bushcraft, navigation and survival skills, and to be able to look after themselves in the bush and especially in off-track situations without being a liability to the rest of the team.
How fit do volunteers need to be?
To be useful on a typical bush SAR operation, you need to be fit enough to keep moving in rough country for 8 hours at a time. Stamina rather than speed is a pre-requisite. Some search tasks, however, require only low levels of fitness so don't be put off if you think you are not fit enough.
What are the time commitments for volunteers?
First response members are expected to maintain their skill levels by attending at least 50% of our training exercises and 50% of SAR call-outs per year. This amounts to about 6-8 days per year, plus 2-3 days on searches. You should also spend enough time in the hills to maintain your fitness and bushcraft skills. We also have a meeting on the evening of the third Monday of each month which you are expected to attend.
What does it cost volunteers?
It costs nothing to join, except your time. Most of the training and running costs are met by the NZ Police, New Zealand Land SAR (Inc), SARINZ and Tai Poutini Polytech plus donations from the public and grants.
As a SAR volunteer, would I have to be transported by airplane, or helicopter, or 4 wheel drive?
Yes. SAR volunteers can generally expect to have to use a helicopter or off-road 4 wheel-drive transport. This question is relevant for insurance purposes - you must disclose your SAR activities if you already have insurance and are joining SAR, or if you intend to take out an income protection or life insurance policy.
As a SAR volunteer, what transport would I need to have?
Generally, members must be able to either get themselves at short notice to the designated assembly area. This usually means the Hamilton Central Police station. Volunteers may also make arrangements to share transport with other members.

Insurance, ACC, and Employment

What do I tell my employer/boss?
Make sure you discuss joining SAR with you employer before signing up. Some work places allow special leave for SAR operations, others may require you to use your own leave. Discuss the process for notifying your boss when you are called out on a search.
I'd like to join, but my employer won't give me time off to attend searches, can you help?
Hamilton SAR Group can provide a letter in support of your activities. However, ultimately the outcome will depend on negotiations between yourself and your employer.
Are volunteers covered by insurance when they are out on searches?
As of 1 July 2009 all members of LandSAR will receive disability and death cover to the amount of $100,000 if involved in an accident while involved in SAROP, SAREX or training as a LandSAR volunteer. Depending on the circumstances, volunteers may be able to seek replacement of gear or equipment that is damaged or lost on a search. Please note: If you have individual life and disability insurance we wish to bring it to you attention that if you do not alert your insurance company to your involvement in Search and Rescue then the policy ”small print“ may preclude your family receiving any payout should the worst case scenario eventuate during a SAROP or SAREX.
What if I lose wages because I attend a search?
Talk to a committee member if this is an issue. Generally, volunteers are responsible for their own employment arrangements. Volunteers who are employees are encouraged to negotiate for paid leave for search and rescue activities to be incorporated in their contracts. The Police are able to reimburse volunteers for lost wages.
What about the cost of travel?
If you incur costs for items such as travel during a search you can be reimbursed by the Police. Your travel costs may not be reimbursed if you choose to take your own vehicle when it was an option for you to use transport provided by the Police. Talk to a committee member to get a claim form.