What to Expect

In Case of Emergency, Dial 911

Missions Can Happen at Any Time

Most search and rescue missions are unplanned. This means team members must be ready to respond at anytime. Fortunately, the bulk of missions occur during the evening or on weekends when working people have the time to enjoy the wilderness (and rescuers have time to help).

Evidence searches are an exception. These are typically planned by the Sheriff’s office 3 or 4 days in advance. Advanced notice is also given on some extended searches.

How Missions Work

A 9-1-1 Call

It all starts when someone needs help, and they call 9-1-1.


If the emergency seems like a match for Search & Rescue’s capabilities, the dispatch operator contacts the King County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff's Deputy

A Sheriff’s Deputy ensures the emergency meets certain searcher safety requirements and then determines which SAR units to deploy. The Sheriff’s Office deploys King County Search and Rescue close to 200 times a year, occasionally 2 or 3 times in a single day.

The 1st Page Out

An initial text message goes out to all search and rescue team members. This is a “heads up” that a mission is imminent. The text gives a rough location, the kind of mission it is, and the units likely to be involved. The unit leaders contact the deputy to discuss the situation.

On Standby

While the unit leaders and the Deputy plan the mission, members have time to asses their ability to respond. Members can decline to respond to any mission for any reason with no questions asked. If they decide they can respond, they get their gear ready and wait for a mission confirmation.

The 2nd Page Out

Within 15 minutes, a confirmation text goes out that includes the specific units that are needed and the location of the field Command Post (CP). Members sign into the online mission roster, get in their vehicles, and begin driving to the CP. More information is paged out as it becomes available.


Members arrive at the CP in the field and sign in on the physical mission roster. They receive their team and mission assignments and get ready to head out. On average, 21 team members respond to each mission.

The Mission

A member’s work on a mission is determined by the type of mission and the unit they belong to. Typically, missions last an average of 6 to 7 hours including drive time. Provisions can be made for members who need to leave the field early at a predetermined time.

Wrap Up

When mission operations are done for the day, all members return to the CP and sign out on the physical mission roster. Often, there is a quick mission debrief meeting.

Back Home

When members return to their homes, they sign out on the online mission roster. This is how the units know their members made it home safely. Gear is cleaned and the members rest.