Travis County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) is a volunteer organization, but our mission requires a high degree of professionalism.
Mission Deployment is the primary goal, which must be supplemented by training, in order to maintain preparedness. Members maintain mission-ready status through a strong commitment to continual training in:
- wilderness navigation
- swiftwater awareness
- FEMA command structure
- search strategy
- rope awareness & use
- crime scene preservation
- communication protocols
- CPR & First Aid
- search management
- light disaster operations
You must be very comfortable in the outdoors to be a mission-ready member of TCSAR. Training and searches often take place in rough terrain, bad weather and at night.
Although you are not expected to respond to every search call-out, you will be on call 24/7.
You will be asked to attempt to make arrangements with your employer, etc. to be able to respond as requested. Our primary mission is to respond to lost person emergencies. Of course, all our team members have other commitments like job and family, and these are respected.
Physical fitness is also a requirement for mission-ready members of TCSAR. If you are applying for a ground operations position (non-auxillary), there is a required annual physical fitness test. The current standard is the wildland firefighting moderate "pack test," which is a two (2) mile hike with a 25 lb pack in 30 minutes. The light "pack test" is a requirement for all operational support staff, which will deploy to support an operation, but will not be mission-ready searchers in the field. This test is a one (1) mile hike in 16 minutes without a pack.
JOINING PROCESS -- for ALL prospective members
Thank you for your interest in pursuing membership with Travis County Search & Rescue (TCSAR). If you have any questions about the process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCSAR will only be reviewing completed applications for acceptance of new members to the team two (2) times per year. The Spring (Q1) application period will run from January 15 – March 1. The Fall (Q3) application period will run from July 15 – September 1. There will be a limited number of new team members accepted per application period.
Step 1: Attend a TCSAR Training.
Any interested individual can attend one TCSAR training to learn more about Search & Rescue, meet some of our team members and ask questions about how TCSAR works. For each application period, there are four (4) open trainings (see dates below). To schedule attendance at a TCSAR training, please email email@example.com with a completed Waiver Form and preferred and alternate open training dates. You will receive confirmation of your attendance date via email and the details/directions will be sent close to the actual training date. Attendance at TCSAR training events is by invitation only.
Step 2: Submit an application prior to the deadline (see dates below).
After attending an initial TCSAR training, individuals interested in pursuing membership with TCSAR need to submit the following parts of the application packet to the TCSAR address/PO Box.
- Official ‘Application for Membership’
- ‘Authorization to conduct Background Check’ - all candidates will have to pass a Criminal Background Check.
- Application fee (as listed on the application)
- Preferred dates for 2nd & 3rd training attendance (on application)
- NIMS ICS certifications:
- 100 - Introduction to Incident Command System
- 200 - ICS for Single Resources and Initial Accident Incidents
Note: Application to a specialty unit (K9, Special Operations) is separate from application to the general Ground team. Interested individuals must be accepted to the team and become proficient as a Ground team member prior to seeking acceptance into a specialty unit. However, all trainings are open to the entire team. To learn more about this process, please discuss this with your coordinator.
Step 3: Attend two (2) additional TCSAR Trainings.
Individuals are strongly encouraged to attend the scheduled Ground training date. Individuals can attend no more than two (2) training of any types (ground, canine, special operations). Confirmation will be sent to applicants of their dates to attend training. If an applicant has to reschedule any confirmed date, a reschedule is subject to availability. All trainings must be completed during the application period.
Step 4: Submit the remaining parts of the Application prior to the deadline (see dates below).
- NIMS ICS certification: 700 - National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction
- Application Essay Questions
- Signed agreements to the Emergency Response Letter of Understanding and Code of Conduct (TBD).
Upon completion of the above steps:
The application is considered complete and the Candidate will be scheduled for an interview with the TCSAR Board of Directors. Only completed applications will be reviewed by the Board for acceptance to the team. All candidates whose applications were reviewed by the Board will notified within 7 days of the Board review as to the status of their application.
2013-2014 Application Period Dates & Deadlines (Training dates subject to change):
- Spring (Q1)
- Open Training Dates: Nov 15, Dec 6, Dec 13, Jan 3
- Deadline for Application (Part 1): January 15
- Training Dates for 2nd & 3rd Training:
- Ground: Feb 5
- Spec Ops: Feb 4, Feb 18
- Canine: Feb 7, Feb 14, Feb 21
- Deadline for Application (Part 2): March 1
- Orientation Training: March 26
- Orientation Weekend: April 5-7
- Fall (Q3)
- Open Training Dates: May 9, May 23, June 13, June 20
- Deadline for Application (Part 1): July 15
- Training Dates for 2nd & 3rd Training:
- Ground: Aug 1 or Aug 10
- Spec Ops: Aug 5, Aug 19
- Canine: Aug 8, Aug 15, Aug 29
- Deadline for Application (Part 2): Sept 1
- Orientation: Sept 17
- Orientation Weekend: Sept 27-29
The week days are in the evenings, typically 6:30 PM to 10 PM. The weekend trainings are typically all day starting at 8 AM. Come get to know us and let us get to know you. Decide if you are interested. We look forward to the opportunity to get to meet and work with you. If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COST OF VOLUNTEERING
Since we are a non-profit organization and rely totally on donations and fundraisers, each individual is responsible for most of the costs of training, outfitting, etc. We do have minimum required trainings and some team-sponsored trainings. Most required training is provided by the Team at minimal or no cost and TCSAR tries to subsidize any required training provided by outside instructors.
However, members are responsible for obtaining additional training as needed and the gear required to perform the search and rescue role.
- A Fundamentals of Search and Rescue (FUNSAR) course, will cost you about $150. This is a two weekend course that will prepare you for SAR Tech II certification (highly recommended for mission-ready status). CPR and Wilderness First Aid costs $25 - $60 each.
- Gear such as maps, team uniforms, backpacks, GPS units, flashlights, FRS radios, compasses, dog search vests, etc. are the responsibility of the individual team member.
- Call-outs are done via text messaging, email and cell phones. All operational team members are required to have these capabilities for dispatch notification. We also conduct a large portion of our notifications regarding trainings, etc. via email.
- Dues are paid annually to TCSAR and are currently $60 per member.
- Mission-ready members are required to attend the trainings necessary to maintain their skill sets. All mission-ready members are Ground Team members and must attend a mimimum of ten (10) training hours per quarter to maintain your operational status. Members can also choose to apply to be part of one of the specialty units, K9 or Special Operations (Technical Rescue), which have training requirements in addition to the Ground team requirements.
- Ground Team Training:
- One evening per month 7-11pm: field training, mini–drill or classroom training
- Four weekends per year: intense training modules
(full Saturday and Sunday, Fridays)
One night per year: All-night drill;
One day per year: All-day drill;
Plus other training events as needed or available.
- K9 Unit Training:
- 2 evenings per week: 6:30-10pm.
Required for K9 handlers only, but non-K9 handlers are encouraged to attend;
- Optional evenings and one weekend day per month.
- Special Operations Unit Training:
- 2 evenings per month: 6:30-10pm.
- One weekend day per month
This is a membership alternative for anyone who is not interested in or unable to do search work, but would like to join TCSAR to serve the team/community in other ways. There are plenty of opportunities for individuals who would like to assist in this capacity. Auxiliary members must choose an active role in at least one of the following:
- Public/Community Outreach
- Assist with the organization and facilitation of Public Relations events
- Contribute to the Newsletter
- Assist with marketing efforts and development of collateral for events
- Participate in the Fundraising Committee, which includes grant writing and coordinating Eeyore's annual event.
Auxillary team members can not participate in field operations / deployments. Auxillary members are not 'mission-ready' or 'in-training' field resources. They may participate in some team trainings and can hold the office of Secretary or Treasurer on the Board of Directors. However, there are no minimum training requirements for Auxillary team members.
Training a search dog usually takes 1-2 years worth of training at a frequency of several times per week. TCSAR has dogs certified in both live air scent and cadaver/HRD search. We have several dogs currently in training. All K9 handlers must become proficient as Ground team members prior to training a K9. There are several times when the K9's are not used, but all personnel are still expected to respond and assist where needed. Additionally, because it takes 1-2 years, we strongly encourage all dogs start SAR training prior to the age of three (3).
If you are interested in training your dog, you must:
- Follow the process steps as listed above to join the team as a general Ground team member. Indicate your interest in K9 and whether you currently have a K9 you are interested in training. Attendance at all events must be without your K9. Application to the K9 specialty unit is separate from the general team application and can only be applied for after acceptance to the Ground team.
- In order for a K9 to be admitted to the K9 unit, it must first undergo a Behavioral / Aggression Screening by the TCSAR K9 Unit Leader. This screening will not be conducted until you have been accepted to the Ground team and have applied to the K9 Specialty unit. After your acceptance to the K9 specialty unit, a date/time may be arranged for you to bring your K9 for an official screening. At that time, we can also give you an idea about your dog's potential as a trainable search dog. Not all dogs have this potential. Successful K9's must be able to work in the field for up to 3-4 hours at a time.
- Although you will find a lot of team members knowledgeable about training the search dog and eager to offer their help, you are expected to take primary responsibility for training your dog. This requires much more than one training session per week. Outside classes, conferences, books, etc. are necessary. The team can make recommendations but it is, ultimately, the handler’s responsibility. K9 training must include basic and advanced obedience and several external trainings require Canine Good Citizen.
- TCSAR conducts internal K9 certification tests, but also recognizes and encourages team members to obtain certifications from National Organizations such as the following for specific areas such as tracking and human remains detection (HRD):