The Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Detail has primary responsibility for all search and rescue missions involving lost or stranded persons within the unincorporated areas of the County as well as certain contract cities the Department services. Upon request from other jurisdictions, the SAR Detail will respond to any other city, and occasionally, to other counties within the state under a mutual aid system. The Detail also activates during natural disasters such as wildfires, flooding and earthquakes.

All SAR members are registered with the San Diego County Office of Disaster Preparedness as Disaster Service Workers. This registration enables the members to qualify for State Worker’s Compensation benefits in the event of personal injury or death while on duty.

History of Search and Rescue

In March of 1963 the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, first formalized search and rescue team was formed as part of the Sheriff's Department, Emergency Services Division.

Since 1963 the success rate for Search and Rescue stands at approximately 98% without being able to fully close the few "mystery" cases. We believe this record is second to none.

The SAR Detail has maintained an outstanding record of safety for victims and members alike while engaged in SAR operations. The Detail has never been held accountable for an injury or death as a result of negligence or malpractice. Those SAR missions that have resulted in victim deaths have always been attributed to accidents that occurred prior to the callout, suicides, or acts of god beyond our control.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Detail is recognized nationally as a member of the National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR), by state and local peer groups, and by local agencies, as being a well trained and qualified organization. Our SAR organization conducts a training academy recognized by the Sheriff's Department. A Search and Rescue volunteer who has completed our Academy will have over 220 hours of Search training prior to responding to missions.

Today, the SAR team is comprised of 10 units of expertise, each specializing in particular skills, which enhance an operation. These units are Rescue (Technical and Non-technical), Communications, Canine, Medical, Logistics, Mounted, Motorized (4 X 4’s and off-road vehicles), Training and Administration.

High technology has entered the SAR picture and such tools have assisted us in saving lives. With our Mobile Command Bus which is equipped with computers, printers, radios, plotting table, GPS systems, night vision goggles, television/VCR and maps we have been able to operate and staff personnel on missions for days.

Over the years, the Sheriff’s SAR Detail has grown tremendously. Currently, our organization has over 200 volunteers that contribute countless hours of their personal time. In excess of 20,000 man-hours and 250,000 miles in their privately owned vehicles are donated each year. In dollars and cents, this adds up to saving the county of San Diego $425,000 annually.

The years of voluntary service by the Sheriff's Search and Rescue Detail most accurately demonstrates the Department’s vision; "We are recognized and respected as a model organization having the confidence of the public. We have the resources and a dynamic working environment that attracts and retains highly competent employees. We are innovative and responsive to the needs of those we serve."