Search and Rescue Research

SAR Researcher in front of chalkboardWhether you are interested in it or not, Search and Rescue research is extremely important in both proving the effectiveness of our equipment and techniques but also for driving improvements in both. Fortunately for all of us, research into SAR has increased rapidly in the last few years and university courses encompassing search and rescue are becoming more common across the world.

Not only is the academic study of search and rescue becoming more common but also the spread of that information worldwide is commonplace too. Across the worldwide search and rescue community there is a push to spread good quality information based upon empirical evidence and squash outdated techniques and thoughts that have previously flourished across all SAR disciplines around the globe.

The Journal of Search and Rescue is slowly finding its feet and publishing peer-reviewed SAR based research freely to anyone who wants to read it. The last issue in October presented papers on swift-water rescue harnesses, GPS, post-traumatic stress and the use of social media. Previous issues have dealt with sound and light sweep widths, drowning times, USAR markers and use of communication equipment in the cold.

In addition to this research into search and rescue is finding its way into other scientific journals around the world. A quick search of academic journals finds articles on USAR, Maritime SAR and disaster management published in only the last few weeks.

It is important though that the research gets out from the journals and those that read them, down to the frontline SAR practitioners, whether paid or volunteer. How can this be achieved?

J R Frost made an admirable first attempt in 1999 with his "Principles of Search Theory" but his introduction hinted at the problems both he and his presentation suffered.

"Terminology is important for understanding search theory's basic principles. However, many terms used herein have also been used elsewhere with different, and sometimes vague or even contradictory, meanings. Therefore, to gain a full appreciation of the material being presented, the reader may need to set aside familiar concepts and definitions from other informal discussions of "search theory".

"Although the author has striven for clarity and simplicity, it should be no surprise if several careful re- readings and some computation are necessary to grasp the concepts involved. Search theory is not simple and intuitive; many of its concepts are difficult to understand after only an initial exposure. Readers who have been exposed to other treatments of this subject that may not have adhered as strictly to precise terminology or the underlying scientific research are likely to have the most difficulty."


Sometimes the research cannot be simplified and effort is required on the part of the reader to understand the concepts contained within it. Sometimes the reader will need to drop a "cherished concept" as Frost described it, whatever discipline of SAR they are in.

As well as effort on the part of the reader, researchers must do more to get their work out into the community. Many now attend the numerous worldwide SAR conferences but they must also make an effort to try to make their work accessible to all SAR practitioners.

Obviously SARworld will endeavour, as always, to assist by giving a platform to those researchers wishing to publish articles on their research but also by reporting on the latest research publications so that you can read the work yourself.

SAR research is important. Anything we can do to improve must be embraced, even at the cost of our old cherished concepts!