The Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Detail has primary responsibility for all search and rescue missions involving lost or stranded persons within the unincorporated areas of the County as well as certain contract cities the Department services. Upon request from other jurisdictions, the SAR Detail will respond to any other city, and occasionally, to other counties within the state under a mutual aid system. The Detail also activates during natural disasters such as wildfires, flooding and earthquakes.

All SAR members are registered with the San Diego County Office of Disaster Preparedness as Disaster Service Workers. This registration enables the members to qualify for State Worker’s Compensation benefits in the event of personal injury or death while on duty.

History of Search and Rescue

In March of 1963 the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, first formalized search and rescue team was formed as part of the Sheriff's Department, Emergency Services Division.

Since 1963 the success rate for Search and Rescue stands at approximately 98% without being able to fully close the few "mystery" cases. We believe this record is second to none.

The Search and Rescue Detail has maintained an outstanding record of safety for victims and members alike while engaged in SAR operations. The Detail has never been held accountable for an injury or death as a result of negligence or malpractice. Those SAR missions that have resulted in victim deaths have always been attributed to accidents that occurred prior to the callout, suicides, or acts of God beyond our control.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Detail is recognized nationally as a member of the National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR), by state and local peer groups, and by local agencies, as being a well-trained and qualified organization. Our SAR organization conducts a training academy recognized by the Sheriff's Department. A Search and Rescue volunteer who has completed our Academy will have over 220 hours of Search training prior to responding to missions.

Today, the Search and Rescue Detail is comprised of 9 units of expertise, each specializing in a particular skill set, which enhances an operation. These units are Technical Rescue, Tactical Search, Communications, Canine, Medical, Search Management, Mounted, Motorized (4 X 4’s and off-road vehicles), Training and Administration.

High technology has entered the Search and Rescue picture and such tools have assisted us in saving lives. Our Mobile Command Bus, which is equipped with computers, printers, radios, plotting table, GPS systems, night vision goggles, television and maps assists Search and Rescue personnel in extended search missions.

Over the years, Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Detail has grown tremendously. Currently, our organization has approximately 200 volunteers that contribute countless hours of their personal time. In excess of 20,000 man-hours and 250,000 miles in their privately owned vehicles are donated each year. In dollars and cents, this adds up to saving the county of San Diego $425,000 annually.

The years of voluntary service by the Sheriff's Search and Rescue Detail most accurately demonstrates the Department’s Mission; "We provide the highest quality public safety service in an effort to make San Diego the safest urban county in the nation" and Organizational Vision; "We earn the respect and confidence of the public as a professional public safety organization. We are innovative and responsive to those we serve and work in partnership with our communities. We attract and retain highly competent and diverse employees".