In California, the County Sheriff has responsibility for finding persons missing in the non-urban areas of their jurisdiction. To do this, most counties maintain their own SAR team, composed of both paid deputies and SAR volunteers. After an unsuccessful initial search, the County will ask for assistance through mutual aid from other counties or agencies in the state. Cal-ESAR is one of these agencies.
Cal-ESAR's involvement in an operation begins with an initial phone call or page from the State Office of Emergency Services in Sacramento. The Operations Staff member receiving the call gets the information needed, and then alerts the rest of the Cal-ESAR membership. To do this, we leave a message on our Operations Status Line (Ops Line) giving all the details of the operation. Members with pagers are paged to this number, and they are expected to call in, get the details, and leave a message with their availability. Members without pagers are contacted by phone if time permits. Once they state that they are available, they are referred to the Ops Line for details.
The Ops Line usually specifies a time and a place to meet, and those responding leave from that point as a group. If anyone needs a ride, that information is left on the Ops Line, and arrangements are made. When a mission is finally complete, members check back in through the Ops Line to say that they are back at home and are out of service.
Simplifying the Process
As a member responding on SARs, there are a number of things you can do to make the process run more smoothly. These things are outlined below:
- Be prepared for an operation at any time. This means that your pack is packed, your uniform is clean, there is gas in your car, and your food cache is stocked and ready for use.
- If you have a pager, keep it on 24 hours a day; it's the easiest way for us to get in touch with you. If you keep it on "vibrate" during the day, don't forget to put it back on "beep" at night. Always make sure the battery is fresh & functioning.
- Let others in your household know when you are on-call. Let them know what to expect and what to do when we call you at 3:30 in the morning! And yes, we do know what time it is, and that you are probably in bed.
- None of the Callout Leaders want to debate your availability at that time of the morning with parents or house mates, so settle the details in advance!
- Be at the appointed place at the appointed time. Let someone know if your plans have changed! Let the Operations Staff know if you are going to be out of town, or otherwise unavailable.
- Remember, parents and house mates are even less cheery at 3:30 a.m. when they have just been awakened needlessly.