Is Kootenai Country Sheriff VSAR accepting new volunteers?
Due to our current roster numbers KCSO is not accepting any applications for our Volunteer Search and Rescue unit.  Hopefully next spring we can make some adjustments and accept new members.  Thank you for your time and interest.

To whom does Kootenai County Sheriff VSAR provide service?
Integrated under the Recreational Division of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, KCSO VSAR provides services to the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies within the county. With requests through the Kootenai County Sheriff Office, Mutual Aid program, the team also may respond to support major and extended out-of-county incidents for other law enforcement agencies throughout Idaho and Eastern Washington.


What services does Kootenai County Sheriff VSAR provide?
As outlined in the ‘About the Team’ section of this website, the team activities cover wilderness and urban missing person search and rescue responses which are related to our rescue capabilities. The team also works with the Civil Air Patrol in downed aircraft search, rescue and recovery incidents and is active in community preparedness and preventative SAR education.


What type of searches do you go on?
Most of our search responses are wilderness and urban search incidents throughout the county. Over the last couple of years we have performed rescues in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, other Kootenai County Backcountry areas, unincorporated areas and urban settings for child abduction subjects, missing children and adults, Alzheimer and dementia patients, potential suicide cases and for evidence.


Where do you search?
Our primary jurisdiction is within Kootenai County. This may include county parks, open space, urban areas and parts of the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. Through the Sheriff Office, the team may be requested to respond to SAR incidents in neighboring counties or, indeed, statewide, under the Sheriff  Mutual Aid program.


How long is a typical mission?
An individual incident’s length can vary from a few hours to several days. Volunteers usually work in operational periods of 8-12 hours. Local searches typically run 8-24 hours. Rescue incidents will be 4-6 hours. If members respond to out-of-county searches, the time commitment will typically be 24-72 hours.


Is it mandatory to respond to a search?
KCSO VSAR is a professional volunteer organization serving the people of Kootenai County. While it is understood that not all of our members will be available for every search call-out, it is expected that most will respond. Members commit a significant amount of time to the team in training and call-out preparation so most are eager to participate in responses and put all the training into practice in the field. Additionally, the team does have a level of responsibility to supply the necessary resources to meet the search operation requirements. Members’ lifestyle and work schedule should be somewhat flexible to allow active participation. If this is not the case in your situation, you may want to reconsider any decision to apply for membership.


How are members notified about a search?
All active team members are notified through an automatic callout system maintained by Kootenai County Sheriff Office. The call-out message will be delivered by voice, email, and/or text messaging depending on what the volunteer wants to receive.  The call-out message will typically include the location to report, the type of call and key information.  If the volunteer received the notification by phone, they may indicate if they can respond.


What kind of time commitment is there for training?
Primary required training is delivered by a KCSO VSAR Academy.  The Academy is taught each year starting in January.  The Qualification Specialty you are interested in will determine the amount of training session and the type of session you need to attend.  Everyone will go through the Academy once each year with any new members.  Additional field training, as required for the Specialty, will also be held during the Academy.  KCSO VSAR has several specialty sub-teams that offer opportunities for further training and skill development. We also encourage members to attend outside training opportunities above and beyond the minimum team requirements.


What type of skills do I need?
Outdoor skills are highly recommended. Search and Rescue is both physically and mentally challenging. Many of our searches are in rough terrain and in adverse weather conditions. Members are trained and tested annually in the fundamental SAR skills, including; navigation, low angle rope skills, sign cutting, search techniques, tracking, CPR and first aid, as well as physical fitness and survival techniques.

There is also a need for people, who can no longer participate in active field searches, can function with the Base Camp Specialty and be a valuable member.


What type of equipment will I need?
You will need good hiking boots, a backpack, helmet, headlamp, safety goggles, gloves, raingear and proper clothes. Members are expected to maintain a 24-hour pack which they have with them at all times. The minimum list of contents for this pack can be found listed via a link to: 24-hour pack equipment. Members carry their response gear in their vehicles for immediate response. In addition to this personal equipment, the team supplies radios, rescue equipment and G.P.S. units


What are the costs involved?
There are no joining or membership fees for KCSO VSAR. Members are expected to provide their own clothing and personal equipment which, depending on items they already own, may require an investment of around $300.


Are members paid for their time in responding to incidents?
No – KCSO VSAR is an entirely volunteer organization in which members do not receive any remuneration.


Who joins KCSO VSAR?
Membership is open to anyone over 18 years old. Our members represent many diverse walks of life within the local the community. Ages range from the mid-20’s to the 70’s, with the common links being an enjoyment of the outdoors, a commitment to make a contribution to the team and the community and a desire to actively participate.


Can I use my personal vehicle?
Although the team has access to a number of Sheriff’s Office vehicles and members are required to have a valid driver’s license in order to operate these vehicles, most members respond to incidents and training sessions in their personal vehicles. The team’s Standard Operating procedures, which are made available to all new members, outline specific guidelines and requirements for the use of such vehicles.


Can I train a canine?
KCSO VSAR does not certify dogs for the team. Any member interested in the certification of a canine would need to receive the certification from an outside organization such as ????? However, the team supports a canine specialty team and does have a number of canine handler members, who actively participate in search call outs.