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Deciding if a SAR response is necessary

Page updated: 27 November 2020

If you're the Incident Controller, you need to decide if a SAR response is needed.

Consider the circumstances

You need to consider the circumstances even if you don’t have direct evidence that a person is in danger.

You need to consider:

  • the location of the incident or situation
  • the likelihood that the subjects can rescue themselves
  • the likelihood that the subjects can be rescued without a SAR response
  • the weather forecast
  • possible risks, for example avalanches, water table levels, the distance to safety
  • whether a delayed response would place subjects and SAR resources at unnecessary risk.

Use the NZSAR urgency assessment forms if you have difficulty deciding whether a SAR response is needed.

Example: Is a SAR response needed?

A boat is drifting and the weather is forecast to deteriorate

A 7m boat has engine difficulties and is drifting. The boat cannot anchor or propel itself. It is 30 nautical miles off the west coast of the Auckland region. The weather is good at present, but it’s forecast to deteriorate in 10 hours. Sunset is in 6 hours. No other commercial or recreational boats are known to be in the area. The two people on board are in good health, but they don't have much food or liquid.


A search and rescue response is needed

The two people probably can’t self-rescue, and they’re unlikely to be rescued by another boat. If the response is delayed, night falls, and the weather deteriorates, there’ll be an increased risk to SAR resources. A drifting boat with engine difficulties doesn’t necessarily require a SAR response. However, when this is considered with the other circumstances (the absence of other boats in the area, the deteriorating weather, and the limited food and water on board) it does require a response.

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If you can’t decide — contact the coordinating authority

If you’re not in a coordinating authority and you’re unsure whether a SAR response is needed, you must contact the coordinating authority. You must also let the coordinating authority know all the information you have about the incident or situation.


Follow your readiness plan

You need to follow your SAR organisation’s readiness plan.  The Awareness section of your organisation’s readiness plan will guide you through key actions you need to take in the Awareness stage.

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