Need to report someone lost or missing? call 111 - Ask for police

Tasking SAR resources

Page updated: 27 November 2020

Tasking can be pre-planned or planned by the Incident Controller. Specific information is needed before pre-planned tasking can happen.

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should include information about pre-planned tasking

At a minimum, your organisation’s pre-planned tasking at the Initial Action stage should include:

  • scripts for communication searches, such as requesting further information via coastal radio and broadcast band radio
  • Initial Action tasks for dedicated SAR resources that can be immediately tasked to an urgent incident where this scenario is outlined in the readiness plan and enough information is available about the incident.


Examples of pre-planned initial Action tasking


Example 1

A Coastguard vessel is deployed and tasked to travel to a subject's most probable position. The subject is a vessel in distress, and it is reported to be sinking. On arrival, the crew of the Coastguard vessel need to report observations to the Incident Control Point.


Example 2

A rescue helicopter with a winch is deployed. The helicopter is tasked to travel to a specific surf beach. On arrival, the helicopter crew need to:

  • report observations
  • attempt to identify a subject reported to be in the surf
  • rescue the subject using rescue swimmers and winching.


Example 3

A police vehicle is deployed to the end of a road that is known to be a departure point for alpine trampers. On arrival, police need to find out whether a specific vehicle is at that location and report what they find.

Get the information you need before carrying out pre-planned tasks

Before you carry out pre-planned Initial Action tasking, you need to know:

  • the subject's most probable position (MPP) or their last known position (LKP)
  • the likely risks to SAR resources (for example, weather or location)
  • how the SAR resource and the Incident Control Point will communicate, and what the schedule is for this communication
  • what the specific task is, and whether it has any parameters when carried out.

The Incident Controller should review all pre-planned tasking

The Incident Controller should do this at the earliest opportunity and confirm whether or not the pre-planned tasking is appropriate.

Only SAR resources that are tasked should be mobilised

SAR resources that are mobilised without being assigned specific tasks are risks to the SAR operation's success.

SAR resources that are mobilised but not tasked can compromise:

  • the coordination of the SAR operation
  • the ability of tasked resources to carry out their assignments
  • the safety of tasked and non-tasked resources
  • clues to the whereabouts of the subject in Land SAR operations due to scene contamination.

SAR resources that are mobilised but not tasked must remain on standby

If your SAR resource is mobilised, you can only start a SAR task automatically if your SAR organisation's readiness plan says you can. Otherwise, you must:

  1. prepare for mobilisation by following your SAR organisation’s process and procedures
  2. remain on standby at the predetermined location until you are tasked by the Incident Controller or stood down.

If no pre-planned Initial Action tasking exists, the Incident Controller must plan tasks

Before tasking SAR resources, the Incident Controller needs to:

  • analyse the available information
  • seek amplifying information
  • identify the aim and objectives for the SAR operation
  • identify specific tasks to achieve the objectives
  • assign specific tasks to appropriate SAR resources
  • establish how and when they will communicate with the SAR resources that will be tasked
  • monitor the progress and execution of tasks.

If an urgent response is needed, Incident Controllers may have to develop a SAR plan during Initial Action with limited support from the Incident Management Team. This is because the Incident Controller may not have time to assemble a full Incident Management Team.

Incident Controllers may have to record information in a different format

If you're an Incident Controller and you have limited time and resources, you can record information in a different format to formal SAR documentation. For example, you might create an audio recording instead of a text record. However, you should change your records into a text format at the earliest opportunity so that others involved in the SAR operation can access them easily.

Incident Controllers need to plan Initial Action tasks carefully

If you're an Incident Controller, you need to plan tasks that will contribute to meeting the SAR operation's aim and objectives.

When you plan tasks, you need to make sure that:

  • the task contributes towards meeting a specific objective
  • SAR resources capable of carrying out the task are available to be deployed
  • that SAR resources are capable of carrying out the task in existing and forecast conditions.

You must keep in mind:

  • the potential for risk, further harm, or death to the subject if the response is delayed
  • the potential for undue risk to SAR resources if immediately deployed.
Need to report someone lost or missing? call 111 - Ask for police