What SAR Is

Search and Rescue (SAR) involves locating and evacuating persons who are trapped, lost and/or injured. SMRG specializes in wilderness SAR, conducting its search and rescue activities exclusively in rugged and less-populated outdoor areas.

Who SMRG Is

The Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group (SMRG) is a professional volunteer wilderness search and rescue organization established to provide assistance to those who become lost or injured in the outdoors. Along with other member organizations of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference (ASRC), SMRG responds to emergencies anywhere in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to conduct searches for missing persons or aircraft, and to carry out rescue operations in wilderness areas that require specialized equipment and techniques.
Based in Vienna, Virginia, SMRG has over 100 active members with expertise in wilderness medicine, land navigation, search and tracking techniques, land/air evacuation methods, and emergency incident management. Our teams are dispatched to 20-30 search emergencies annually, and operate in conjunction with state and local authorities as well as other ASRC groups. SMRG is a section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) which has no direct role in search and rescue operations, but serves as the authority on Mid-Atlantic wilderness areas. PATC offers a variety of training and guided activities that encourage safe and enjoyable use of the outdoors and ultimately contribute to the prevention of wilderness emergencies.

How SMRG Works

Any incident in which SMRG participates must be under the command of a "responsible authority" or "authority having jurisdiction (AHJ)", generally a state, county or local law enforcement agency. After receiving notification of a wilderness emergency, the AHJ contacts the State Emergency Management Agency, if SAR resources are needed. With the broad authority to coordinate disaster management activities throughout the State Emergency Management Agency maintains the state's emergency plans for responding to natural and technological disasters. In Virginia, VDEM is the initial coordinator of resources for wilderness search emergencies. Other states have similar agencies which also have the authority to dispatch SAR resources.

Once the State Emergency Management Agency is briefed on the incident, it contacts the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference (ASRC). ASRC represents a coalition of 9 mid-Atlantic SAR organizations, each covering a separate area of the mid-Atlantic region. Through its member organizations, ASRC can mobilize over 400 trained volunteers in a response territory that stretches from southern Pennsylvania to the northern border of North Carolina. Based on the geography and type of incident, ASRC will dispatch some or all of its groups (including SMRG) to the scene. SMRG members, who generally follow the progress of a search from the time the state emergency management agency is notified, then assemble teams and travel to the incident location.

Once on scene, members of SMRG and other ASRC groups coordinate with law enforcement, EMS, and local volunteers to carry out the search effort. SMRG members generally work together in teams of 4-6 searchers, combing through wilderness areas in search of subjects or evidence of their whereabouts. Once located, subjects may require medical assistance and/or evacuation depending on the type of incident that has occurred. SMRG conducts both manual patient evacuations as well as assisting with helicopter-based rescues.

Chairman's Message

At the beginning of 2013, I introduced three priorities to focus membership activities for the year:

  • Member engagement on missions
  • Training toward certification
  • Managing our organizational relationships

These three priorities focus on delivering the service SMRG provides, building and maintaining our capacity to provide this service, and developing and sustaining the relationships that lead to callouts. Throughout the year we will continue to press on these three priorities to ensure long-term viability of SMRG as SAR resource in the region.

Thanks!
Steve Weiss, Chair
Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group