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Search and Rescue

DCNR is the primary coordinator for search-and-rescue efforts in its state forest and state park lands.

If you or a companion become lost or injured while recreating in a state park or forest, contact the state park office or state forest district office where the person is missing or needs help. If you are unable to reach someone immediately, you should contact 911.

When a person goes missing on DCNR lands, DCNR occasionally may delegate responsibilities to cooperating search-and-rescue agencies/organizations; however, DCNR ultimately is responsible for the search and rescue. This occurs when the search-and-rescue event is becoming larger or expanding, and there’s a need to supplement resources for additional operational periods.

Volunteer for a Local Search-and-Rescue Team

Being a volunteer search-and-rescue team member can be very rewarding, but it also is very hard work and should not be taken lightly. The following considerations should be given if you are thinking about joining a search and rescue team:

  • Rescue work is not glamorous. It is usually only plain, hard work.
  • There are no regular hours on a search. Working hours are at any time and for as long as anything worthwhile can be accomplished.
  • It will not always be possible to return to headquarters or a restaurant at mealtime, or to a cabin at night. Each time a team goes into the field, they must be willing and physically prepared to spend the night in the field if the situation so demands. Arrive prepared to be self-sustained for 24 hours.
  • A team assigned to a search mission will work as directed by the incident commander in charge.
  • The most important factor in a search mission is its accomplishment, and not by whom it is accomplished.
  • The professional application of skills and techniques and practice of safety standards is mandatory in the performance of any and all search tasks.

If you are willing to sacrifice your own needs for that of another, you are ready to become a search-and-rescue volunteer.

There are many local search-and-rescue groups for you to volunteer your services. The following organizations provide information about volunteer opportunities for search and rescue:

Search and Rescue Training and Certifications

DCNR desires to use trained and certified personnel on all DCNR-land searches. Most search-and-rescue groups provide training and/or certification opportunities for their members. Training standards are available from DCNR for search-and-rescue team leader and member certification:

Search and rescue training courses can help prepare you for field team leader and member certification tests. Various agencies/organizations conduct search and rescue courses when given enough advanced notice and an adequate number of students.

In addition, the following offer search and rescue training across the commonwealth:

Certification Tests

The best time to take an field team leader or field team member certification test is during the Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council’s “SAR-EX” event held during the end of April/beginning of May every year. DCNR-approved evaluators hold testing sessions during this event.

Should you desire to take the test at a different time of year, please contact DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry’s Recreation Section at 717-783-7941.

Usually evaluators will hold a session when an adequate number of students express an interest and agree upon a suitable date and time.

Approved Evaluators

If an individual is interested in becoming an approved evaluator, he or she must first contact the DCNR Bureau of Forestry Recreation Section at 717-783-7941 requesting to become an evaluator. The Search-and-Rescue Committee then reviews the request and determines whether the individual meets the Field Team Leader and Field Team Member Evaluator Standards (PDF).

There is no test associated with the evaluator status.