Thinking about joining us? Some of the benefits of participating in volunteer wilderness SAR and some FAQs are below but the best way to learn more and start the application process is to attend a new member orientation meeting. Sessions are held about once a month. The schedule will be shared after you submit the form linked below. In this informal session, you’ll receive an overview of the group and its mission. You’ll have the chance to meet a SMRG member and ask questions about the group. After the orientation, if you like what you hear, you may continue with the application process. Or, if you decide search and rescue is not for you, there’s no obligation to join. While the application process can be completed in about a month after attending orientation, most members take about 2 months to complete the process.
Service: SMRG’s ultimate mission is to serve the community. Our main activities center around providing assistance to those who become lost or injured in the outdoors. In addition, SMRG actively educates the public on safe conduct in the outdoors and prevention of wilderness emergencies. If you’re looking for a way to “give back” to the community while using your outdoor expertise, this is it.
Training: Our members receive extensive training in wilderness survival, land navigation, land/air evacuation methods, search techniques, radio communications, team leadership, and other areas that are key to our operations. Training is conducted in both the field and the classroom, and sessions are administered at no cost to our membership. You do not need previous search and rescue experience to join – only a willingness to participate and a desire to learn.
Community: We have more than 100 members from all walks of life, all connected in their affinity for the outdoors and a desire to contribute. Many members find that SMRG activities provide the context for an enjoyable social network and friendships that persist outside of official group events.
New Member FAQ
Some of the topics prospective members typically ask about are covered below. If you have other questions, send an email to email@example.com to reach our New Member Coordinator.
Each member is encouraged to participate as fully as possible. SMRG typically has between 15 and 30 “callouts” (rescue operations) each year. Participation is always voluntary, but you’ll need to participate in 2-3 callouts each year to maintain SAR certifications. In addition, members are encouraged to attend monthly business meetings and to take advantage of regular training sessions.
SMRG is dispatched to conduct wilderness searches for missing/injured persons, aircraft, or evidence. Once the dispatch occurs, our members travel to the search location. Upon arrival, they coordinate with other search organizations, volunteers, and law enforcement officers to inspect a wilderness area in search of the subject. Our searches frequently occur in rugged terrain, so we generally deploy ground teams, although assistance may be provided by aerial and motorized searchers as well.
Callouts can occur any time of year, any day of the week, and at any hour. Most searches are completed within 48 hours, but some can last several days. The majority of our members have “other” jobs (we have to pay for our search gear somehow) and balance their voluntary service in SMRG with their other commitments.
We welcome participants at all levels. If you are competent in the outdoors and own basic survival gear, you have the essentials. Of course, we are very interested in potential members with previous search and rescue experience, as well as individuals with backgrounds in wilderness survival, emergency medicine, and disaster management.
SMRG is based in Vienna, Virginia and most of our members reside in the greater Washington metropolitan area. While there is no residency requirement for joining SMRG, the majority of our training activities are conducted in and around northern Virginia.