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

Creating readiness plans

Page updated: 27 November 2020

Readiness plans should be prepared well before a SAR operation occurs. Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan will help you to respond to SAR incidents effectively and efficiently.

Readiness plans document possible responses to SAR incidents

Your organisation’s readiness plans should include possible actions, contacts, procedures, and other information you need to respond to a SAR incident.

Your organisation’s readiness plans may be defined by:

  • the kind of SAR operation they are for
  • the location they apply to.


Your organisation’s readiness plans should include information on everything that can be pre-planned

This includes:

  • activation
  • mobilisation
  • sources of information
  • Initial Action tasking for common scenarios
  • communications during a SAR operation
  • logistics.



Your organisation’s readiness plans may have a different name

They may be called:

  • district mobilisation plans (DMP)
  • pre-plans
  • contingency plans
  • response plans
  • incident response plans.


Prepare readiness plans carefully

Consult with coordinating authorities

Coordinating authorities should approve readiness plans to ensure the Initial Actions identified within it are:

  • appropriate
  • effective
  • efficient
  • complementary to Initial Actions taken by other SAR organisations.


Include information on a range of topics

Your organisation’s readiness plans should include specific information on the following topics.

General information


  • the purpose of the readiness plan
  • the area, district, or environment the readiness plan is for
  • the name of the SAR organisation the readiness plan is for
  • the name of the person or group who wrote the readiness plan
  • the date the readiness plan was prepared.
View more

The area the plan applies to


Describe the general area and the activities that occur within it

For example, you might mention boating activities and describe what they are (that is, whether they are commercial fishing or recreational boating or something else).


Describe the places used to access the activities

For example, for boating activities, include information on:

  • boat ramps and their locations
  • areas that attract boaters
  • possible areas of shelter from the weather.
View more

The geography of the area


Describe the land

Include information about:

  • slips
  • gorges
  • scree slopes
  • cliffs
  • bluffs
  • glacier areas
  • avalanche terrain.

Include information about tramping tracks and walks. Record details about:

  • what kind of walk or tramp it is
  • where the tramp or walk starts and finishes
  • how long it usually takes to complete the walk or tramp.

Describe the vegetation, and include information on:

  • gullies
  • ridgelines
  • the suitability of geographical features for travel and navigation.


Describe areas of water

Include information about large areas of water, such as:

  • the type of water (for example, whether it is a lake, river, sea)
  • the depth of the water
  • the temperature of the water
  • any hazards (for example, bars, rocks, reefs, sandbars, rips, and currents).

Include information about ocean currents, such as:

  • the upper current (the current on the surface)
  • the underlying current (the current one metre under the surface)
  • the time and height of the tides, including spring and neap tides
  • swell.

Include information about areas of flowing water, such as:

  • flow levels and rates
  • suitability for travel and navigation
  • hazards (for example, gorges, waterfalls).

Include information about other hazards, such as:

  • culverts
  • drainage pipes
  • grates and grills.

Include information about accessing culverts, pipes, grates, and grills, such as:

  • entry and exit points
  • padlocks and other security devices, and the names and contact details of the people who can unlock them.
View more


Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should include information about the details needed from the informant such as:

  • who is at risk
  • the location of the incident
  • the circumstances of the incident
  • how urgent the situation is
  • contact details for the informant.
View more

Initial Action

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information on:

  • how quickly Initial Action should be taken
  • how to activate specialist SAR Incident Controllers and SAR resources for common urgent scenarios
  • the internal process for passing the role of Incident Controller to another person
  • deployment locations and tasks for first response teams or other teams that can respond quickly
  • defined containment areas
  • SAR resources that may be available, including their capability and response time
  • tasking responses that are usual in certain scenarios (for example, checking boat ramps)
  • Initial Action tasks for dedicated SAR resources that can be immediately tasked to urgent incidents
  • scripts for communication searches, such as requesting further information via coastal radio and broadcast band radio
  • how to notify landowners who may be able to help with containment areas
  • how to notify other SAR agencies that can provide support.
View more

Activating and coordinating SAR resources

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information about:

  • which coordinating authority would be the most appropriate to coordinate the incident
  • SAR organisations that need to be notified about incidents in the area, and have extensive knowledge of the area and immediate access to keys and transport
  • key people within SAR organisations and their contact details
  • other resources that could be deployed (for example, helicopters, pilot boats, harbour master) and their capabilities and contact details
  • scripts for communication searches
  • when you can immediately activate SAR resources
  • Initial Action tasks for dedicated SAR resources
  • any agreements or advisory arrangements with SAR organisations and other resources.
View more

Managing health and safety

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information about:

  • hazards and risks in the area (for example, avalanches, gorges, sandbar crossings)
  • poisons in the area if dogs will be involved in the response
  • actions that need to be taken to manage risks and reduce hazards (for example, safety briefings, packing specific safety equipment)
  • procedures for signing in and out
  • how to manage rest and fatigue (for example, shift lengths, rosters, replacement resources, demobilisation, overnight accommodation, transport to and from the incident).
View more

The Coordination Incident Management System (CIMS)

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information about:

  • who should act in key roles such as Incident Controller, Operations Manager, Planning and Intelligence Manager, and Logistics Manager
  • who could act as alternatives in these key roles
  • who should be part of the teams supporting people in these roles.
View more

SAR resources needed for common scenarios

For each scenario, specify what you need including:

  • people (for example, specialist support, roving patrols, people to manage the incident, dog handlers, people who could contain the search area)
  • vehicles, aircraft, and vessels
  • marine resources trained in search and rescue, and people with vessels that may be in the area of the incident
  • the minimum equipment needed to respond effectively (for example, tents, whiteboards, computers, radio  equipment, portaloos)
  • specialist equipment
  • possible Incident Control Points in the area.
View more

Ways to access the area

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information about:

  • roads
  • tracks and walkways, including tracks used by surveyors and people setting bait stations
  • ridges and spurs that are often used
  • rivers
  • canals
  • lakes
  • open sea.

Include information on launch points and landing zones including:

  • boat ramps, jetties, and wharves
  • areas suitable for planes and helicopters to land or load with by winching or hovering.
View more

Environmental conditions

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information about:

  • where to find accurate weather forecasts for the area, including marine forecasts
  • local currents and tides, and how the direction and strength of the wind affects them
  • river gauges and flow information
  • conditions for crossing sand bars
  • exposure scales for avalanches
  • forecasts for avalanches (contact the Department of Conservation (DOC), use the avalanche terrain exposure scales (ATES), or consult
View more

Previous searches in the area

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should contain information about:

  • previous searches in the area  and any patterns or emerging trends (consider including the SARdonyx [P130] number in your readiness plan in case people need to look up previous searches)
  • reference material such as guide books, brochures, signage, maps, charts, nautical almanacs that may help to identify decision points or what the subject may have intended to do in the area
  • key decision points in the area
  • huts, shelters, and activities that attract people to the area
  • bays, coves, mooring points, popular attractions.

Include maps and charts in your readiness plan as appendices.

View more

Communication systems


Include information about mobile phones

Include information about coverage in the area, especially areas such as:

  • Incident Control Points
  • road ends
  • ridges.

Include information about all providers of mobile phone networks, and the coverage of each network.


Include information about VHF channels

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should include information about:

  • VHF channels, including aviation and marine channels and their coverage
  • the coverage area of fixed repeaters (stations that can rebroadcast messages and extend radio coverage)
  • procedures for accessing fixed repeaters used by other agencies
  • locations for installing portable repeaters.


Include information about HF radio channels

Your SAR organisation’s readiness plan should include information about:

  • HF radio channel frequencies
  • scheduled times when channels will be monitored
  • times of day and night when channel frequencies may change because of environmental conditions
  • the location of remote stations that can relay broadcasts.


Include information about other radio networks and their coverage

Include information on:

  • UHF radio
  • citizen’s band (CB) radio
  • single-sideband (SSB) radio.


Include information about how to contact key facilities

Your readiness plan should include contact details for:

  • the facilities mentioned in the readiness plan
  • the police special operations room.


Include information about internet coverage

Your readiness plan should describe the coverage available in the area.


Include information on communication plans

Your readiness plan should include a communication plan or indicate where draft communication plans can be found.

View more

Medical resources

Include information about:

  • contact details for medical experts who are on call or standby (medical advisors, on-call psychologists, paramedics, survivability experts, medical experts who can help develop the subject profile)
  • evacuation procedures for medical emergencies including where to land a helicopter near the Incident Control Point, options for land and marine evacuations
  • the time it would take to get to the nearest accident and emergency facilities by air or vehicle from key locations in the area, such as safe havens, and where it would be safe to come to shore.

Your readiness plan should also describe where, how, and when to record information about injuries.

View more

Other facilities


Include general information

Include details about:

  • the Incident Control Point (size, telephone, internet access, radio coverage)
  • staging and assembly areas (location, rooms for briefing teams, other facilities)
  • catering facilities (electricity, ovens, hot water, fridges)
  • parking for vehicles
  • maps of facilities.


Include information about landing zones

Include details about helipads and landing zones suitable for aircraft, such as:

  • their location
  • the size and number of landing spots in each helipad or landing zone
  • whether the helipad or landing zone can be accessed by heavy vehicles to allow refuelling.


Include information about marine facilities

Include details about:

  • wharves
  • jetties
  • boat ramps
  • establishing communication in the local marine area.


Structure your readiness plan logically

Your readiness plan should include sections on:

  • key people and how to contact them
  • the names and contact details for supporting emergency services
  • air resources such as aeroplanes and helicopters
  • marine resources
  • a list of any other SAR resources that could support the plan.


Use appendices

Consider using these appendices.


List contact details for key people in Appendix 1

Keep the contact details for key people separate from the main part of the readiness plan. This is so you won’t have to update different parts of the plan when a key contact person changes. The only contacts you should include in the main report are the names of the organisations that rarely change (for example, the phone number 111).

If your organisation has several readiness plans, you could include a single list of key contacts for all of them.


Include maps and charts in Appendix 2

This part of your readiness plan should include maps and charts of the area the readiness plan is for.


Include information on how to keep the plan up-to-date in Appendix 3

This part of the plan should describe how the readiness plan will be maintained. You should include information on:

  • how often the readiness plan should be reviewed
  • how to update the contact list and the list of available resources (this should happen when a person or resource becomes unavailable, and when the readiness plan is reviewed)
  • when and how to incorporate major changes to the environment into the plan
  • when and how to update maps and charts.
View more
Need to report someone lost or missing? call 111 - Ask for police