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Developing a profile of the subject

Page updated: 27 November 2020

An accurate profile of the subject will help you to predict the subject's behaviour.  If you're the Incident Controller, you need to consult and revise the profile of the subject throughout a SAR operation.

Ask experts to help you develop a profile of the subject

People with relevant expertise will help you to develop a profile of the subject. Choose appropriate experts so you get the information you need. For example, an aviation expert can explain what pilots are trained to do when ditching an aircraft, and whether an airline has specific procedures.

People with relevant expertise may include:

  • doctors recognised as medical specialists who can assess the behaviour and survivability of subjects
  • alpine climbing experts
  • caving experts
  • marine vessel operator experts
  • aviation experts.

Medical specialists should be brought into planning early in an operation. They can access medical records and provide specialist interpretation and advice to support planning. If suspension of an operation is to be considered, then they must be consulted.


Include information about the subject’s physical attributes in the subject profile

Physical attributes include:

  • what the subject looks like, including appearance and physical characteristics
  • the subject's physical capability (how far the subject can or is likely to travel).

For operations focusing on a vessel or aircraft


Include information about the vessel or aircraft


  • the nature of the emergency (for example, fire, collision, overdue, crash)
  • the name, type, call sign, registration or anything else that would help to identify the aircraft or vessel
  • what the aircraft or vessel looks like (for example, the size, type, markings, hull, colour of cabin, deck, rigging, fuselage colour, tail colour, wingtip colour, unusual features)
  • the position of the emergency (latitude, longitude or bearing, distance) from a known point, or the last reported position and the next reporting position
  • the time of the incident and the estimated time of arrival
  • the departure point, the planned route, the destination, and the speed of the vessel or aircraft
  • for aircraft, the altitude, attitude, heading, speed, and endurance
  • possible route deviations
  • radio frequencies currently used (monitored or scheduled)
  • whether the aircraft or vessel has any emergency radio equipment, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT), or flares
  • the owner/agent of distressed aircraft or vessel, and their contact details
  • the aircraft or vessel’s navigation capabilities.


Include information about the people on board


  • the number of people on board along with their names, ages, states of health, injuries, and their intentions if known
  • the contact details for next of kin
  • the equipment people have available (for example, food, water, signalling devices)
  • the mobile phone numbers of the people on board.

For operations focused on a person overboard


Include information about the person overboard

Record the person’s:

  • name, age, and gender
  • height and weight
  • physical condition and swimming ability
  • mental condition
  • clothing
  • type of lifejacket and whether it was on when they went overboard.


Include information about the vessel


  • the vessel’s name and call sign
  • the position, course, and speed of the vessel
  • the date, time, and position where the person went overboard
  • when the person was last seen if no one knows when they went overboard
  • the height of the fall from the vessel to the water
  • whether the vessel has been completely searched
  • whether the vessel will search for the person overboard and for how long
  • the weather conditions where the vessel is and where the person fell overboard.


Include other details

Record information about:

  • radio frequencies that are in use, monitored or scheduled to be in use
  • whether an urgency broadcast is requested
  • whether assistance is wanted
  • whether assistance is being received
  • who reported the incident
  • any other useful information.

For operations focused on a missing person


Include personal details

Record the person’s:

  • full name
  • nicknames
  • age
  • gender
  • address
  • telephone numbers
  • employment
  • relationship status.


Include information about the person’s physical appearance and ability

Record the person’s:

  • height and weight
  • build
  • appearance and any distinctive features
  • level of fitness
  • physical and mental health
  • physical ability and whether they are left or right-handed
  • medical needs (for example, whether they are on medication and what the effect would be if they miss a dose).


Include information on what the person has with them

Record information on:

  • what the person is wearing and whether they have any other clothes with them
  • whether the person has a means of transport and what the means of transport is
  • whether the person has food and water with them
  • whether the person is on medication, and if they have their medication with them.


Include other relevant information

Record information on:

  • the time the subject was last seen
  • the subject's intentions if known
  • any other relevant information.


Include information about the subject's behavioural attributes in the subject profile

Behavioural attributes include the subject's:

  • training and experience
  • behaviour in specific circumstances
  • medical and psychological state.

To get this information, talk to medical experts and people who know the subject. Ask medical experts to help you to analyse the information.


Fill in the correct NZSAR forms to record information about the subject

Missing Person Summary - (PDF, 114KB)

Target Form (marine) - (PDF, 116KB)

Initial Missing Person Report - (PDF, 119KB)

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