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Foley: Colorado Search and Rescue Board

Greg Foley
Mountain Rescue

The Colorado Search and Rescue Board (CSRB) is a non-profit coordinating agency that provides a point of contact at the state level for search and rescue affairs. It is an association of SAR teams, county sheriffs and other organizations or individuals that have an interest in statewide search and rescue coordination. In order to be a voting SAR team member units must be a volunteer, non-profit public service organization that does not charge for its services.

Currently, the CSRB has 39 SAR teams as voting members as well as 28 county sheriffs and 36 other non-voting members. Grand County Search and Rescue and the Grand County Sheriff are both on the roster.

The CSRB has been functional since the early 1970’s and has three objectives:

To provide and/or coordinate search and rescue (SAR) services as requested by county sheriffs and others whose responsibilities include search and rescue.

To provide a time and place for search and rescue organizations to meet and exchange ideas.

To provide education opportunities for the search and rescue community

Many educational opportunities are provided by the CSRB that are difficult for individual teams to provide for their members, especially at a cost that is affordable. The primary offering is a 40 hour Managing Land Search Operations (MLSO) class which is the requisite course for SAR personnel who are charged with managing lost or missing person search operations. Completion of this course is a requirement for GCSAR Incident Commanders; last year three of our members took this course in Buena Vista. The CSRB also awards scholarships for SAR training opportunities.

MLSO is potentially available twice each year with the assistance of a host team. The instructors, who are drawn from across the state, generally have more than 20 years of experience managing search operations in Colorado.

The CSRB is also able to provide a travelling instructor that can present local training on subjects such as basic search tactics, SAR communications and personal locator device tracking. Sponsoring educational and training events for SAR personnel, like last year’s national Search and Rescue Conference in Estes Park, are ongoing projects. Besides working closely with the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, the CSRB is involved in overseeing the Colorado Search and Rescue fund, and has worked to make changes to improve the fund and ensure that the individual SAR teams and units throughout the State have input into the process.

The most important function of the CSRB is to provide SAR coordination and management assistance for Colorado sheriffs who are, by statute, responsible for search and rescue in their jurisdiction. To this end, the CSRB maintains a comprehensive list of SAR resources that are available within the state. Besides volunteer SAR teams that provide the backbone of any SAR incident, the list includes canine resources, mantrackers, dive and swift water crews, cave rescue experts and aircraft resources.

A CSRB State SAR Coordinator is on-call and available 24 hours a day to respond to requests made by county sheriffs. Last year there were around 100 requests for assistance that were answered by the eight qualified State SAR Coordinators, each of whom has extensive SAR experience. I have had the honor of serving as a State SAR Coordinator since 2008.

When a sheriff requires resources that are unavailable in-county, the State SAR coordinator can expedite resource requests, allowing the sheriff to concentrate on the business at hand. Typical requests are for specialized assets like search dogs, qualified ground crews or military aircraft. The State SAR coordinator can also provide incident management staff and operational or planning advice if requested.

By agreement with the Air Force Rescue and Recovery Center (AFRCC), only county sheriffs or the CSRB State SAR coordinator are authorized to request military assets for search and rescue operations in Colorado. Besides aircraft, the military can also provide cutting edge cell phone forensics unavailable to local authorities. The CSRB is also the point of contact in the event that there is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) activation in the state. The AFRCC will contact the State SAR Coordinator who will plot the PLB coordinates and then pass the information on to the appropriate county sheriff.

The CSRB is a non-governmental organization that helps to save lives in Colorado without tax dollars and is a benefit to Colorado residents as well as travelers that support our economy. The CSRB and all of its members support no charge for rescue. More information can be found at coloradosarboard.org.

With the strong support from the county sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management and the member volunteer SAR teams the CSRB will continue to serve an important function strengthening SAR capabilities in our state.

Greg Foley is a member of Grand County Search and Rescue and has been a mountain rescue volunteer for 36 years. He can be reached by email at greg.foley@grandcountysar.com. The GCSAR website can be found at grandcountySAR.com or on Facebook/GCSAR.


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