Ever wonder how much it costs to be a Search & Rescue Volunteer? Your answer is below.
Search & Rescue Team
"Pat" manages an all-volunteer, Search & Rescue team. The team relies on members that are spread out across four counties. As a new member, "Sam" must meet minimum requirements for 1) training 2) attendance and 3) performance before he can respond on a real search.
That process required before Sam can be deemed 'operational' can take up to a year or more is one of several reasons that many new members like him quit. This poses a challenge for Pat since not having enough qualified members to deploy on real searches can result in serious consequences for the mission to find the lost or missing person.
Many new members like Sam also come from the private sector, where the expectation to be productive is common. They expect that the training they attend is:
- Well organized?
- Time efficient?
- Cost effective?
- Valuable for their personal development?
Besides the extensive delay in training, frequent drop outs are the result of these failed expectations:
- Too many hours spent driving to and from training, meetings and seminars
- Too many hours spent attending training, meetings and seminars
- Too much money spent going to training, conferences, seminars, buying books, etc.
It can be argued of course that the mission is better off without people like that, but the fact remains that quality SAR responders are hard to come by. Identifying why some leave helps fuel a solution.
Let's expand some detail for Sam's journey:
- Like most teams, Sam's team trains once per week and schedules a business meeting each month that often includes a training element. Sam's team also hosts or attends pricey seminars, external training classes, certification courses, buys books, pays for testing fees, etc.
- In Sam's case, he also is training a dog for search & rescue. The optional weekly training he attends to work with the team's experienced handlers and the related education is yet another commitment of time and expense.
- Not including equipment costs, Sam's annual costs associated with earning an operational status can be gigantic. Remember too, that other volunteer members are also contributing their time to help Sam receive the training he requires.
- And that doesn't include the yearly 'maintenance' costs to keep Sam trained and his knowledge refreshed.
So, what's all of that time worth? The non-profit trade group Independent Sector tracks and publishes this data every year:
"The value of a volunteer hour is $24.14 and the value of a volunteer mile is .14 cents."
Using those figures, here's a conservative breakdown of Sam's volunteer time and expense to participate in his SAR team on a monthly basis:
Activity per MONTH
MINIMUM Time Spent Per MONTH
MONTHLY Costs @ $24.14/hour
Time driving to and from training
Time attending training & meetings
Time attending misc training, seminars, etc.
Fees, mileage costs, etc.
Optional K9 Training
Team member support
MINIMUM Costs Before Equipment
76 hours MINIMUM
In just Sam's first year - before he even goes on his first search - he spends nearly 1000 hours of time worth over $22,000. And has a 50/50 chance he'll quit before he even gets that far.
It should be noted that these are very conservative estimates. In my first year in SAR, I spent nearly TWICE as much time training than the above example.
For instance, here are my actual training hours for just my first ten years in search & rescue (yes, I tracked my training activity using THIS).
First 10 Years of SAR
Training HOURS Spent
MILES Driven for Training
872 hours PER YEAR
6370 miles PER YEAR
Sam and other new members like him may spend more or less time on their SAR training compared to the data above. However, anyway you slice it, the costs to train a new member are enormous and vastly under recognized.
If these teams were businesses, they'd be broke and still short of employees.
So it's easy to see why the burden of time and money breaks the will of many eager SAR prospects, doesn't it?
Therefore, if there's a way to trim 10%, 15% or even 20% percent off of that huge time and expense burden, it should be worth considering.
Now it's your turn. Scroll down to the bottom and leave a comment with your experience with what it costs to be a volunteer in SAR.