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

Applying control across SAR organisations

Page updated: 30 November 2020

If you're the Incident Controller, you need to have a span of control you can manage.

Command and control during Operations

Coordination brings together response elements and resources to ensure a unified and effective response. Command and control assist with coordination by defining authority between and within organisations.

  • command is the authority within a team, unit or organisation and includes the internal ownership, administrative responsibility and detailed supervision or personnel, tasks and resources. Command cannot be exercised across teams, units or organisations unless specifically agreed. 
  • control is the authority to set objectives and direct tasks across teams, units or organisations within their capability and capacity. This may include control over another team, unit or organisation's resources but does not include interference with that team, unit or organisation's command authority or how its tasks are conducted.


Establish an appropriate span of control

If you are a manager or leader of SAR resources during a SAR operation, you will have SAR resources reporting to you. The number of SAR resources you have reporting to you is called your span of control.

You need a span of control you can manage. This means you need to be able to perform your search and rescue responsibilities effectively at the same time as managing the SAR resources that are reporting to you.

An appropriate span of control depends on:

  • the distance between SAR resources
  • the effectiveness and efficiency of the communication systems being used during the SAR operation
  • whether a mixture of different kinds of resources are used (for example, vessels, land teams, and aircraft)
  • the availability of live tracking systems that reduce the need to communicate
  • the quality of the SAR resources involved in the SAR operation
  • the expertise of the SAR resources involved in the SAR operation.

Coordinating the SAR operation

If you're the Incident Controller, you need to coordinate the SAR operation effectively. You can also use on-scene coordinators to help you to coordinate operations. 


Make sure you are aware of all SAR activity

As Incident Controller, you need to be aware of all activity associated with the SAR operation during all stages. This will enable you to coordinate the SAR operation effectively.

All activity needs to be:

  • planned
  • assigned to appropriate resources
  • monitored while tasking is being carried out.

No SAR resources should be tasked without your knowledge.


Consider appointing on-scene coordinators

You may need to appoint on-scene coordinators if:

  • the SAR operation is so large that the Incident Management Team is not able to communicate with or monitor all the SAR resources that have been deployed
  • the Incident Control Point and SAR resources cannot communicate effectively and this causes delays to sharing information, including monitoring tasked resources
  • activities associated with the SAR operation are spread across such a large geographical area that local management of resources would be more effective
  • the SAR resources used are so specialised that the people managing them also need specialist knowledge.


Brief on-scene coordinators

When you appoint on-scene coordinators, you need to fully explain:

  • the mission of the SAR operation
  • the communication plan for the SAR operation
  • who has been appointed to the Incident Management Team
  • what you as the Incident Controller want to achieve by using them as on-scene coordinators
  • the boundaries for the geographical area they are responsible for
  • the resources that have been assignment to them
  • the procedure for getting more SAR resources if needed
  • how often they need to provide situation reports to you as the Incident Controller, and how much detail they should include
  • what the process is for sharing intelligence.
Need to report someone lost or missing? call 111 - Ask for police