Search & Rescue and Disaster
Please note that the following definitions are for reference purposes. They may or may not reflect the definitions used in certain jurisdictions or by certain individuals or groups.
Air Scent Canine – A search dog that will detect airborne human scent.
Alert – Term used for physical signs a canine or horse gives when they are interested in something. Canines may alert by barking, horses may alert by placing their ears forward, distending their nostrils, focusing their eyes, stopping forward movement, etc.
Ambient Temperature – Temperature of the surroundings.
ALS – Advanced Life Support
ARC – American Red Cross
ARDA – American Rescue Dog Association
ARES – Amateur Radio Emergency Services
ARRL – American Radio Relay League
Ascender – Mechanical device (clamps) utilized by high angle rescue teams, that allows the flow of rope to be controlled in a specific direction (usually upward).
Attraction Search – Search based on the idea that the victim is alive, willing to be found and will, upon hearing or seeing signs of rescue, make them self and their position known.
B-NICE – Five categories of terrorist incidents: Biological, Nuclear, Incendiary, Chemical and Explosives.
Bastard Search – A search in which, for one reason or another and unknown to the searchers, there is no subject, as the subject is elsewhere rather than in the search area.
BATF – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Belay – Term used by high/low angle rescue teams, for the act of one person controlling the descent of another person or object.
Bloodhound – A search dog that is remarkable for its keen sense of smell and often used as tracking/trailing canines.
BLS – Basic Life Support
Bowline – One of the more common fixed loop knots utilized in rescue situations.
Briefing – A meeting before a search in which information is disclosed to the search teams in order to initiate and properly execute the search.
Burnout – Mental and emotional problems that occur soon after or even during a stressful incident or series of incidents.
C/B-RRT – Chemical/Biological-Rapid Response Team
CAP – Civil Air Patrol
Carabiner – A device utilized extensively by high/low angle rescue teams. It is usually a “D” shaped type of metal link that opens on one side to insert rope or webbing.
Caustic Material – A substance capable of destroying or eating away living tissue.
Caving – The art of being able to navigate through caves usually for recreational purposes, but may be for rescue purposes.
CDC – Center for Disease Control and Prevention
CDP – Center for Domestic Preparedness
CERT – Community Emergency Response Team
Chain of Command – A series of management positions in order of authority.
Child Survival – Lost in the Woods – A program that teaches children how not to get lost and what to do if they should get lost.
CIRG – Critical Incident Response Group (FBI)
CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
CISM – Critical Incident Stress Management – CISD falls under CISM
Combustible – Substance that catches fire and burns easily.
Compass – A device that indicates northerly direction based on the needle pointing at the nearest magnetic core.
Confinement Search – Also a containment measure. Search in which the object is to confine the subject to a specific area.
Consequence Management – The response to a disaster, focusing on alleviating damage, loss, hardship or suffering.
COQ – Call Out Qualified
Corrosive – Substance that causes visible destruction of living tissue.
Crisis Management – Measures to identify, acquire, and plan the use of resources needed to anticipate, prevent, and/or resolve a threat or act.
Critical Incident Stress – Problems that can arise as a result of an over taxing situation, such as a major disaster event.
Critique – A formal review of any SAR incident, no matter how large or small. The critique is a process intended to identify the lessons learned from an exercise or mission and is not for placing blame, pointing the finger or allowing adversaries to embarrass each other.
CU – Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures Unit (FBI)
D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
DART – Downed Aircraft Rescue Transmitter ALSO Disaster Assistance Response Team
DCO – Disaster Coordinating Office
Debriefing – A meeting after a search or after a team has been called in, in which all information found is disclosed and where suggestions can be made for the future.
Dedication – Perseverance – Service – “Working Together, So Others May Live” – Motto of the United States Search and Rescue Task Force.
DEP – Department of Environmental Protection
DERA – Disaster and Emergency Response Association
DF – Direction Finding – as in equipment described under “ELT”.
DFO – Disaster Field Office
DHHS – Department of Health and Human Services
DMAT – Disaster Medical Assistance Team (USPHS)
DMORT – Disaster Mortuary Response Team (USPHS)
DOD – Department of Defense
DOE – Department of Energy
Dog Team – One handler and one canine.
DOH – Department of Health
DOJ – Department of Justice
DOS – Department of State
DOT – Department of Transportation
ELT – Emergency Locator Transmitter – A low-power transmitting device carried on light aircraft as required by federal law, and on most military aircraft. It is impact activated and transmits a distinctive sweeping tone that can be detected by aircraft mounted or hand-held direction finding (DF) equipment.
EMA – Emergency Management Agency
EMI – Emergency Management Institute
EMS – Emergency Medical Service
EMT – Emergency Medical Technician
EOC – Emergency Operations Center
EOP – Emergency Operations Plan
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
EPIRB – Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – The marine version of the “ELT”. It will float and is manually activated or activated when submerged in the water.
Equine – Horse
ERT – Emergency Response Team (FBI)
ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival
ETD – Estimated Time of Departure
FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
FDA – Food and Drug Administration
FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency
Figure 8 – One of the more common knots utilized in search and rescue operations, especially within the high angle/rappelling unit.
FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared – A thermal imaging device designed to be aircraft mounted, usually on a helicopter, that can detect heat sources at night. Useful in locating persons on foot, in concealed vehicles, aircraft wreckage, and other heat sources.
FTL – Field Team Leader
FTM – Field Team Member
FRP – Federal Response Plan
Gibbs – A specific type of rescue ascender.
GCSAR – Gloucester County Search and Rescue
GPS – Global (or Ground) Positioning System – Based upon satellites, this small computer will give exact locations using latitude and longitude.
Grid Search – All searchers move forward on a line. They are spaced closely together. This search is slow and methodical and takes a lot of time.
Handler – The person who controls and directs a canine during a search. This person is usually, but does not have to be, the owner or trainer of the canine.
Hasty Search – A search whose purpose is to cover the most obvious places a subject might be in the least time possible. Usually the first kind of search tactic to be utilized.
Hazardous Chemical – Any chemical which is a physical or health hazard.
HazMat – Hazardous Materials
Heat Exhaustion – A heat related condition in which the victim shows elevated temperature, poor heart action, clammy skin, cramping and dizziness. It is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperature.
Heat Stroke – A heat related condition which is serious and life threatening. The victim will show rapid pulse, no sweating, and hot skin. It is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperature.
Helibase – A location within the general incident area for parking, fueling, maintenance and loading of helicopters.
Helispot – A location where a helicopter can take off and land.
High Angle – A term used by rappelling teams. Its specific indication is usually anything over 45 degrees.
HMRT – Hazardous Materials Response Team
HMRU – Hazardous Materials Response Unit (FBI)
HRT – Hostage Rescue Team (FBI)
Hug-A-Tree – A class taught by certified teachers to young children. This course teaches children and their parents how not to get lost and what to do if in fact they should get lost.
Hypothermia – A generalized cooling that may lower the body temperature below normal.
IAFF – International Association of Firefighters
IC – Incident Commander
ICC – Incident Command Center
ICISF – International Critical Incident Stress Foundation
ICP – Incident Command Post
ICS – Incident Command System
Incident – An occurrence or event, either human caused or natural phenomena, that requires action by emergency service personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and or natural resources.
Incident Command Post – That location at which the primary command functions are executed.
Incident Commander – The individual responsible for the management of all incident operations.
IPP – Initial Planning Point
Irritant – A substance that causes a reversible inflammatory response.
ISAR – Inland Search and Rescue – A search management class taught by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force OR Introduction to Search And Rescue – A basic search and rescue course taught by the National Association for Search and Rescue.
JIC – Joint Information Center
JOC – Joint Operations Center
JTF – Joint Task Force
JTTF – Joint Terrorism Task Force
Legal Responsible Authority – The official and/or agency having legal responsibility for the emergency response to a SAR or disaster incident.
LFA – Lead Federal Agency
Litter – A stretcher like device utilized in rescue to transport a victim.
LKP – Last Known Position – The last known location for the missing subject as determined by physical evidence such as a discarded object or a footprint. In the case of an aircraft, the LKP may be the last reported point or the last observed radar position.
Local SAR Coordinator – The person responsible for coordination of SAR operations within a given jurisdiction.
Low Angle – Anything under 45 degrees.
M.D. – Medical Doctor
MACC – Multi-Agency Coordination Center
MATF – Multi-Agency Task Force
MERS – Mobile Emergency Response System (FEMA)
Mission – A specific incident such as a search and rescue operation.
Mission Coordinator – The person designated by the legal responsible authority to coordinate and manage on-scene operations during a specific SAR incident. Depending upon the management system used and the organizations involved, this person may be called the Mission Coordinator, On-Scene Commander or Incident Commander.
Mitigation – The activities designed to reduce or eliminate risks to persons or property or to lessen the actual or potential effects or consequences of an incident.
MLPI – Managing the Lost Person Incident.
MLSO – Management of Land Search Operations.
Mock Search – Staged training that is set up to approximate as closely as possible, a real search effort.
Mountaineering – The art of mountain climbing usually for recreational purposes, but may be for rescue purposes.
Mounted Team – One rider and one horse.
MSF – Managing the Search Function
MSO – Managing Search Operations – See “Search Manager”.
MSR – Maple Shade Rescue
Mutual Aid Search – A search that is too large scale to be handled by one organization. One or more organizations or groups outside the initial group are called in to assist in the effort.
NASAR – National Association for Search and Rescue
NBC – Nuclear, Biological, Chemical
NDMS – National Disaster Medical System
NDPO – National Domestic Preparedness Office
NERRTC – National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center
NFA – National Fire Academy
NFPA – National Fire Protection Association
NGB – National Guard Bureau
Night Vision – A monocular or binocular piece of equipment that allows you to see in near total darkness by intensifying existing light. It may also be utilized in total darkness with an infrared attachment. Night vision is very useful for search and rescue missions.
NMRI – United States Naval Medical Research Institute
NMRT – National Medical Response Team (USPHS)
NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – A mobile weather data collection and forecasting facility including personnel, which can be utilized within the incident area.
NRP – National Response Plan – A federally mandated plan that integrates domestic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery plans into one all-discipline, all-hazards plan.
NSARS – National Search and Rescue School – A national school which conducts search management programs administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force.
NSF – National Strike Force (USCG)
NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board
NVOAD – National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters
NWS – National Weather Service
ODP – Office for Domestic Preparedness (OJP)
OEM – Office of Emergency Management
OJP – Office of Justice Programs (DOJ)
OSC – On Scene Coordinator
OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Overhead Team – A highly trained, quick response SAR management team that can respond to assist with search planning, coordination and operations. The overhead team usually consists of a search manager and one or two assistants.
PAO – Public Affairs Officer
PEMA – Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
Perimeter Search – A search of an outside line that is believed to be across the direction of travel of the subject. The object is to cut the trail and find tracks or other evidence of the subject being there.
Ph.D. – Doctor of Psychology
PIO – Public Information Officer
Plan of Action – A written document that consolidates all of the operational actions to be taken by various personnel in order to stabilize the incident.
PLB – Personal Locator Beacon – The personal version of the “ELT” designed to be carried by a person on foot. It is manually activated.
PLS – Point (or Place) Last Seen – The location where the missing subject was actually seen by another person.
POA or PA – Probability of Area (chances that the subject, or clues, are in the area being searched).
POD or PD – Probability of Detection (chances of finding the subject or clues given that they are in the area being searched).
POS or PS – Probability of Success (chances of being successful with a particular search in a given area).
Post Traumatic Stress/Shock – Emotional problems that can arise after a critical incident that can be long lasting. Search Managers, Team Leaders, etc., should know the signs and symptoms and be alert to the well-being of every team member.
PPE – Personal Protective Equipment
PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (see Post Traumatic Stress).
Prusik – A friction or ascending knot commonly used in belaying and climbing. Originally known as a Magnus Hitch.
RACES – Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services
Rappel – To descend a rope at a safe controlled speed.
REACT – Radio Emergency Associated Communications Teams
Resources – All personnel and major items of equipment available, or potentially available, for assignment to incident tasks on which status is maintained.
ROC – Regional Operations Center (FEMA)
RRT – Regional Response Team
Rural SAR – A search and rescue mission conducted in an area often given to farming or to woodland and is usually sparsely to moderately populated.
SAA – State Administering Agency
SAC – Special Agent in Charge
SAR – Search and Rescue
SAR Emergency – Any SAR incident, whether related to any other type of incident or not, that requires the utilization of resources to resolve, due to the threat or potential threat to human life.
SCBA – Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus
Search Manager – The individual “managing” the search operations. Also known as “MSO” for Managing Search Operations or “MLPI” for Managing the Lost Person Incident or “ISAR” for Inland Search and Rescue Specialist or “NSARS” for National Search and Rescue School.
SIOC – Strategic Information and Operations Center (FBI)
Sizeup – The rapid mental evaluation of the factors that influence an incident. Sizeup is the first step in determining a course of action.
SOG – Standard Operating Guidelines
SOP – Standard Operating Procedures
Sound Sweep Search – An attraction search in which all searchers call out, whistle or make some other sound at a prescribed time and then are all quiet and listening for an answer during a second prescribed time.
Space Blanket – Emergency blanket that looks a lot like foil. This thin, light blanket keeps the body heat in.
Staging Area – That location where incident personnel and equipment gather and are assigned.
Strike Team – Specified combinations of the same kind and type of resources, with common communication and a leader.
Task Force – A combination of single resources assembled for a particular need.
TDS – Time, Distance and Shielding. Three types of protective measures commonly associated with hazardous materials training.
Terrorism – The unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives.
That Others May Live – Motto of the search and rescue community.
Topographical Map (Topo Map) – A map used for search (usually 1:24,000) which shows physical features of a region and allows a certified search manager to deploy resources accordingly.
Toxic Materials – A type of chemical that can cause chemical harm at an incident scene. They produce harmful effects depending on the concentration of the materials and the length of exposure to them. An individual can have chronic or acute exposures to toxic materials.
TRACEM – Acronym used to identify the six types of harm one may encounter at a terrorist incident: Thermal, Radioactive, Asphyxiation, Chemical, Etiological and Mechanical.
Tracking Canine – A search dog that will follow the ground scent of a person who has passed through an area in which the dog is searching.
Trailing Canine – A search dog that will follow the scent trail of a specific individual, after the dog has been allowed to smell an article or object that has been in contact with that individual. The trailing dog is scent discriminating (the ability to distinguish the scent of one person and follow it).
Tracker – An individual who can detect and follow signs of human passage.
Triage – Sorting out the wounded at a major incident so that the most serious cases are treated first.
UC – Unified Command
Unified Command – A method for all agencies or individuals who have jurisdictional responsibility at the incident, to contribute to determining overall objectives for the incident and selection of a strategy to achieve the objectives.
Unity of Command – The concept by which each person within an organization reports to one and only one designated person.
Urban Search and Rescue – A search and rescue mission conducted in moderately to heavily populated areas given primarily to business and residential development.
Urgency Profile – A way to determine the urgency of each individual search and rescue mission. The combination of factors affecting the urgency will help determine not only how quickly to respond, but the nature and level of response as well. On the Urgency Profile chart, the lower the numerical value, the more urgent the response should be.
USAR – Urban Search and Rescue
USFA – United States Fire Academy
USFS – United States Fire Service
USPHS – United States Public Health Service
USSARTF – United States Search and Rescue Task Force
USSS – United States Secret Service
VMAT – Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (USPHS)
VOAD – Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Webbing – Flat nylon strap used for various rescue situations, especially in high and low angle rescue missions.
Wilderness Medicine – The administration of first aid and medical protocols for emergency's where support is not immediately forthcoming. This type of “first aid” may differ significantly from standard first aid.
Wilderness SAR – A search and rescue mission conducted in an area generally uncultivated and uninhabited and often inaccessible by roads.
Wind Chill – The temperature when the temperature is lowered by the speed or gusts of wind to create an actual temperature that one would feel against the body.
WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction
WMDOU – Weapons of Mass Destruction Operations Unit (FBI)