Field Search Skills


The performance of the searchers in the field is a crucial component of every search for a missing person. The field teams are the people who carry out the search plan. If there are any shortcomings in their training or ability then the chance of the missing person being found is diminished. Central to their success is the role of the Search Group Leader.

This day long course brings together a wide range of topics, both theoretical and practical, relating to searching. It makes use of sessions in the classroom and in the field, and builds on the experience gained over many years in SAR by the instructors. In that time they have developed field search techniques, written papers and developed courses on various aspects of Incident Management. Throughout that time they have been members of their local mountain rescue team.

What is the background to this course?

Over the last 15 years or so there have been several developments relating to the practice of searching for missing persons, for example:

  • the use of small search groups
  • Critical Separation and purposeful wandering
  • the use of Missing Person Behaviour information
  • ideas from the psychology of perception
  • application of the Six-Step Process as a management tool

This course attempts to draw together these and many more topics that relate to what the searcher in the field does and how well they do it.

Who is this course for?

This course is for members of any organisation that potentially may be involved in a search for a missing person. Possible participants from those organisations extend through all levels from trainee to the person who is currently capable of leading a search group, or for whom that is the next step in their development. In addition, the course would be of benefit to any Search Manager wishing to update their understanding of searching and their practical search skills.

Course outline

Classroom theory

This includes:

  • searching in different phases of the incident
  • the difference between seeing an object and detecting it
  • the searcher’s basic skills
  • searching in a group
  • searcher spacing
  • Critical Separation
  • purposeful wandering
  • searching in different environments
  • searching at night
  • the role of Search Group Leader
  • the Six-Step Process
  • what affects searcher success

Outdoor practical work

This will enable the participants to try out and have field tuition in the topics covered in the classroom sessions, in particular:

  • searching in a small group
  • the role of the Search Group Leader
  • roles within the search group
  • searching in the Initial Response phase of the incident
  • searching at night

Other information

Note – participants will be expected to take part in all the sessions, both in the classroom and outdoors and should, therefore, have appropriate clothing and footwear available. Participants will also need something to write on and to write with, ideally something which can be used in any conditions as the outdoor sessions will go ahead whatever the weather conditions. One of the outdoor sessions takes place at night, and participants will be expected to have a personal light (e.g. a head torch) and ideally a hand-held light suitable for searching.


Class size

Due to the practical nature of this course classes need to be restricted to a maximum size of 15 participants.

Book this course

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