Chapter 14: Search Background and Related Issues



o       Crash scenes (p. 236-237)

o       One or more fatalities (p. 237-238)

o       Injuries (p. 238)

      (p. 223)

      (p. 233-234)



I. Resources

PowerPoint slides, Chapter 14

LPQ or LCD projector


II. Teaching Points


A. Rudiments of search management: The “Crucials”  (p. 224)

1.      Search is an emergency.

2.      Maximize the probability of success in the minimum time with the available resources.

3.      Search is a classic mystery.

4.      Search for clues and the subject.

5.      Focus on aspects important to success.

6.      Know if the subject leaves the search area.

7.      Grid search as a last resort.


B. Clue consciousness (p. 225)

1.      There are more clues than subjects.

2.      The detection of clues reduces the search area.

3.      Clue seeking is the major job of field personnel.

4.      Good clue seeking is learned.

5.      Experience is necessary to develop a sense of what information is important to the search (clues) and what is not (rubbish).


C. Clue orientation (p. 225)

1.      State-of-the-art search techniques are “clue oriented.”

2.      Any measure of clue detection is based on the unique combination of the characteristic of three things:

a.       The sensor (searcher)

b.      The search object (subject or clue generator)

c.       The environment

3.      Changing any one of these variables could significantly affect or change how easy or difficult an object is to detect.

4.      Effective sweep width is the term used to describe this measure of detectability.

a.       Sweep width is a function of a single, unique combination of the three described characteristics.

b.      Sweep width is a measurement of effectiveness with which a particular sensor can detect a particular object under environmental conditions.


D. Search theory (p. 228)

1.      Operations Research (OR) is a professional scientific discipline that provides for a systematic approach to informed decision-making.

2.      Search theory is an applied mathematical subdiscipline of OR that uses OR principles and methods to help resolve search problems.

3.      Used by military SAR operations during and after WWII

4.      Search theory definitions

a.       Area Effectively Swept (Z)

b.      Coverage (C)

c.       Effective Sweep Width (W)

5.      Probability theory is a branch of mathematics with which a person may systematically deal with uncertain events.

6.      Search planners will use probabilities and search theory to help them do the following:

a.       Allocate resources so that:

                                                                           i.      The maximum overall POS possible is achieved with the available resources

                                                                         ii.      This maximum overall POS is achieved in the shortest possible time

b.      Decide when and how to search or re-search a segment

c.       Decide when to increase or decrease the search area

d.      Decide when to suspend an unsuccessful search or move the search area

e.       Rationalize actions to family and media

f.        Justify actions to others or in court


E. Lost person behavior in the field (p. 233)

1.      The advantages of applying lost person behavior in the field are rooted in three concepts:

a.       An understanding of the behavior of past lost subjects can be applied in present situations to help predict actions.

b.      An understanding of how the present lost subject has acted in the past might help predict future actions.

c.       A thorough knowledge of the present subject(s) can offer guidance to the searcher and might suggest trends or propensities.

F. Handling evidence (p. 234)

1.                    If a searcher expects to locate the subject or solve a mystery, clues must be handled in such a way as to facilitate all search efforts and to preserve evidence for subsequent investigation.

2.                    A thorough knowledge of essential guidelines will serve to build better relations with all authorities, get the most from all clues, and preserve evidence for further investigation


G. Briefing (p. 234)

1.      Exactly how should the evidence be recorded?

2.      Exactly how, if at all, should a print or sign be protected?

3.      Should I act upon my interpretation of a specific piece of evidence, or should I report my findings and wait for further instructions?

4.      To what extent can I act on what is found?

5.      What should I do as a searcher if I am confronted with two trails? Should I act as I see fit, or report it and wait for instructions?

6.      Is splitting the team up a viable alternative?

7.      If the clue is an item that may have been discarded by the subject, do I note the location, mark the location in an obvious way, and leave the item in place?


H. Specific situations (p. 235)

1.      SAR personnel may encounter four primary situations involving evidence and clues:

a.       Evidence: Clues that are discovered and must be processed

b.      Crash scene: Usually a vehicle, occasionally an aircraft, often involves injury and death, and always involves important evidence

c.       Human remains: May involve any number of situations that can cause harm to an individual or group. Bodies often involve injury and always involve important clues.

d.      Injury: Scenarios where death may be encountered. These situations may involve evidence as well.


I. Crash scenes (p. 236)

1.      Often the only way to find out exactly what happened is to piece together the clues.

2.      There are many things that SAR personnel can do to help victims of the incident as well as the subsequent investigation.

3.      There are also actions that could hamper an investigation, further complicate the victim’s situation, and even result in personal injury to SAR personnel.

4.      In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the military all have a responsibility to investigate aircraft accidents that involve serious injury or death.

5.      Guidelines for handling crash scenes

a.       Proceed with caution.

b.      Prevent further injury to the patient or patients by stabilizing the scene.

c.       Determine whether any subjects are alive or dead.

                                                                                                                                             i.      If alive, begin emergency care.

                                                                                                                                           ii.      f dead, secure the scene and notify a higher authority.

d.      Establish a security perimeter for the site, but remember that SAR personnel usually have no legal authority to perform law enforcement functions and may not be able to forcibly prevent people from accessing the scene.

e.       Handle any evidence (e.g., baggage, personal effects, cargo, mail) as specified in the briefing. 

f.        Document, photograph, and/or sketch all pertinent evidence, especially if investigators will rely heavily on your observations.


J. Handling the deceased at a SAR scene

  1. First responsibility of someone arriving on the scene is to determine if the subject is dead, alive, or critically injured.
  2. Proper emergency care supersedes investigation at this point, and medical treatment is never interrupted, just supplemented, by evidence considerations.
  3. Observe the scene and look for clues, evidence, or indications of what might have happened.
  4. The area immediately surrounding a body or bodies should be secured with a rope, string, or tape after a subject(s) is (are) determined dead.
  5. Always try to have a witness to any activity you are involved with around the scene of a death.


K. Handling injuries at a SAR scene

a.       Plan for the handling of evidence, including search-specific considerations, in briefing. Do not wait until something is found.

b.      Generate an accurate record of the evidence and its environment by taking notes, making sketches, photographing, or by retrieving the evidence.

c.       Understand and maintain the “chain of evidence.”

d.      Treat injuries or assist the injured first, but be mindful of any evidence.