Search and Rescue Team Leader, SRTL

Position Category: 
All-Hazard Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 


The Search Team Leader is responsible for supervising and leading a component of search functions during incident operations.  This includes all personnel and equipment resources as well as overseeing and directly supervising the Search Team Members.  The Search Team Leader is responsible for the development and completion of all incident tactical objectives as well as the proper reporting, record keeping, and after-action requirements.

The Search Team reports directly to:

  • Operations Section Chief (Type 3 through 5 incidents)
  • Division Supervisor (Type 1 and 2 incidents)


The Search Team Leader is an emergency responder during the event of a search operation.  Duties may include performing ground, aerial, or water-based search and rescue operations.  Supervise between one to six search and rescue personnel.  May perform technical rope rescue, hasty searches, grid searching for evidence or clues, aerial searches, helicopter short haul, etc.

The Search Team Leader is responsible for:

  • Developing and implementing the search component of the Incident Action Plan
  • Coordinating, managing, and supervising the team’s assigned search and reconnaissance activities
  • Understanding the capabilities and limitations of team members
  • Participating in the oversight, administrative and operational control of the development, implementation and operational aspects of search component training (Canine Search Specialists and Search Team Managers)
  • Participating in the Canine Search Specialist evaluation process
  • Providing research and development input at the field level for the implementation and evaluation new technologies, equipment, tactics and skills as they pertain to the search component
  • Adhering to all safety procedures
  • Determining team search and reconnaissance operational and logistical needs
  • Receiving briefings and situation reports and ensuring that all search personnel are kept informed of missions objectives and status changes
  • Completing operational period Unit Logs
  • Providing situation updates and maintaining records and reports
  • Preparing performance evaluations for assigned personnel
  • Providing oversight for accountability, maintenance, and minor repairs for all issued/assigned equipment
  • Performing additional tasks or duties as assigned during a mission

Knowledge Required By Position

  • General knowledge of search (i.e., ground search, rope rescue, litter operations helicopter short haul, rappelling or special use operations, boat operations) strategies and techniques
  • Operational knowledge about the development and use of integrated action planning concepts and processes
  • Operational knowledge of search strategy and tactics as it pertains to various search environments
  • General knowledge about search operations including search dogs, area sectoring, search patterns, victim location, marking techniques, search team organization and operating procedures
  • An understanding of technical/electronic search device capabilities, limitations, and procedures
  • An awareness of the hazards associated with the various search environments
  • An understanding of canine search capabilities, limitations, and procedures
  • A basic knowledge of rescue specialist tools and abilities
  • Knowledge of supervisory and personnel management skills
  • Practical knowledge of general search strategy and tactics, including:
    • “Probability of Detection” analysis
    • Victim behavior patterns in various situations
    • Search pattern selection criteria including terrain, structures, wind, weather, and air circulation characteristics
    • Search Team organization and operational procedures
    • Understanding the capabilities and limitations of technical and electron search equipment
    • Understanding the general rescue tactics and strategy

Supervisory Controls

The supervisor makes assignments by defining objectives, priorities, and deadlines; and assists the incumbent with unusual situations that do not have clear precedents.  The incumbent may be utilized for short to extended periods to look for clues or lost subjects during multi operational period incidents.

The incumbent plans and carries out the successive steps and handles problems and deviations in accordance with instructions, policies, previous training, or accepted practices.

Completed work is usually evaluated for technical soundness and conformity to policy and requirements.  The methods used in arriving at assignment completion are not usually reviewed in detail.


Procedures for doing the work have been established and a number of specific guidelines or standard orders are available.  Instructions or forms are usually self-explanatory.  An occasional problem may not be specifically covered by guidelines.

The incumbent uses judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines, references, and procedures for applying, and in determining which of several established alternatives to use.


The incumbent works in a wide variety of functional areas which require diverse skills, often involving critical lifesaving situations such as search and rescue, emergency medical and aviation incidents, as well as interactions that require sensitivity to business relationships.  Emergency response often involves decision-making and action in extremely adverse physical and emotional conditions and ability to function in controversial and/or sensitive situations.

Work requires application and modification of established practices in some areas of responsibility, with considerable individual discretion and judgment shown in emergency situations.

The work involves conditions and elements that must be identified and analyzed to discern interrelationships.

Scope and Effect

The purpose of the work is to assist overhead in developing and implementing incident objectives for a safe operation while effectively leading search and rescue operations.

The efficiency of assignments and safety depend upon the effectiveness and timeliness of the Search Team Leader’s decisions and actions.

Personal Contacts

Contacts are with local agency search and rescue team personnel or incident management team personnel during the duration of the incident.  In addition, the Search Team Leader may interact with media operations, family members, special interest groups, and others interested and assisting with the incident.

Purpose of Contacts

The purpose of contacts is to obtain briefings and orders, as well as to relay incident information to and from the incident management team and other team members.  Contacts are also to provide general and specific information and assistance.

Physical Demands

The work routinely involves physically assignments and strenuous activity.  The incumbent must maintain excellent physical condition to carry out responsibilities.  Work involves hiking and climbing in mountainous and desert terrain during inclement weather to perform length search, rescue and recovery missions.  Assignments are often performed in remote areas of steep, hazardous terrain, accessible only by foot.  Routine and emergency situations often require clear reasoning and decisive action under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress.

Work Environment

The work environment is predominantly outdoors in all types of weather and terrain conditions, night or day, including at times of inclement weather, or prolonged periods of time.  Travel may be by foot, ski, snowshoe, vehicle, aircraft, or boat.  The incumbent is subject to cold, hot, windy, wet, or snowy conditions for several days at a time.  Working elevations range from below sea level to 14,000 feet or above.


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