What We Do

Our team undergoes extensive regular training. We have the skills and equipment to assist in a variety of emergency situations.


Technical Rope Rescue

SBCSAR responds regularly to help hikers that find themselves stuck on a cliff side as well as motorists that accidentally roll over the side of a cliff. For these incidents, being proficient  in setting up and manning rope systems to perform such a rescue is paramount. As a Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) team, SBCSAR incorporates technical rope rescue operations as part of its core training curriculum. Every year, each team member participates in many hours of training to ensure their rope skills proficiency meets the SBCSAR teams high standards.


Whether it’s a hiker who stumbles, a climber who falls, or a child that wanders away from a family gathering, SBCSAR is there to help. SBCSAR responds to a variety of calls, many calls involve at least some component of a Search. Locating the person(s) in need is the first challenge, you can’t help someone if you can’t find them. SBCSAR’s team members are proficient in the necessary search management skills including but not limited to; familiarity with county terrain; trails; & campsites, mapping software, resource management, navigation, tracking,clue awareness. SBCSAR’s search skills are also utilized for detective assistance in evidence searches.


Search Dogs

HRD Dogs are trained to find human remains either above or below the ground. HRD Dogs generally work off lead and the handler works in close proximity. Area Search Dogs and Trailing Dogs can be cross-trained for HRD.

All of the SBCSAR dogs are owed and trained by their handlers. The initial training process can take 1-3 years. Training continues once the dog team becomes “Mission Ready” (certified) to maintain proficiency and are retested semi-annually or annually depending on their discipline(s). Utilizing dogs as a search tool has enhanced SBCSAR’s ability to find lost or missing persons.

Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue (SBCSAR) has fielded dog teams since 2001.  Presently there are five certified dog  teams.  There are basically three disciplines the dog can be trained to perform: Area Search, Trailing, and Human Remains Detection (HRD). California Rescue Dog Association certifies all of the SBCSAR dogs.

Area Search Dogs are trained to find any live human scent in a defined area normally in the wilderness environment. An Area Search Dog works off lead, is directed by their handler, and reports back to their handler when they find the subject and then guides the handler back to the subject. Area Search dogs are not scent specific, therefore do not need a subject’s scent article to find the subject.

Trailing Dogs are trained to find a live subject by following the path that a subject has traveled in a wilderness or urban environment. A Trailing Dog does this by the handler first obtaining an article, usually an article of clothing from the subject’s home or vehicle. When at the last known location of the subject the handler introduces the scent article to the dog. At that point the dog will follow the path that the subject has traveled. A Trailing Dog works on a long line with the handler trailing behind until the subject is found.


Off-Road Operations

SBCSAR is equipped with a variety of advanced off-road vehicles that provide us a greater capability to reach those in need of our services on the nearby trails as well as in the back country.  We currently have a small fleet of suburbans, one military H1 Hummer and three Polaris RZRs.


Swiftwater & Flood Rescue

Floods are now the number one weather-related killer worldwide, adversely affecting over 100 million people each year, and causing nearly $80 billion US in property losses.Swiftwater rescue is a relatively “new” discipline, as far as the history of search and rescue is concerned. The growing emphasis on “search and rescue” has been driven by factors including the growing number of natural and man-made calamities. There remains little doubt that the world’s climate is changing and contributing to an increasing “drought/flood” cycle, exacerbated in North America by the El Nino/La Nina weather pattern. Additionally, there are increasingly severe earthquake and storm events, as well as the potential for man-made disasters. In 1999 almost 1/6th of the world’s population was displaced in some fashion by these catastrophes, and globally governments have found themselves having to prepare to deal with them. More Americans die in floods, for instance, than any other weather event.

Equipped with state of the art water rescue equipment, certified Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Technician and two instructors counting 30+ years of experience, your SBCSAR team is trained and prepared to respond to these climate events in our county. Over the years, the SBCSAR team has responded to a multitude of Swiftwater and Flood rescue ranging from hikers trapped by the Santa Ynez river to  vehicle roll overs in a river bed.


Snow & Ice Rescue Operations

While most of Santa Barbara County is a temperate climate, there are areas in the county where we can see snow and freezing temperatures for a short time of the year.  Sometimes snow may fall as low as 2500 ft. catching the unprepared hiker by surprise.  As a Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) team, SBCSAR incorporates snow and ice operations as part of our training curriculum.  We are prepared to go anywhere in any weather and can be called on to support other Search and Rescue teams throughout California.


Mutual Aid

SBCSAR coordinates with the California Office of Emergency Services to provide aid for operations in other counties.


Emergency Beacon

There are a few types of emergency alert beacons that SBCSAR responds to:

Emergency Locating Beacons (ELT) are carried in all aircraft to alert agencies of emergencies in case of crash. In Santa Barbara County, the Sheriff’s Department has been designated as the responsible agency to track down and deal with ELT’s on the ground.  The Sheriff’s Department has tasked the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Team  to coordinate the location of these devices.

ELT’s today are more reliable and accurate than they were even 10 years ago, they will also transmit GPS coordinates to reduce a search area.  SBCSAR will still be required once the general area is determined to track down the specific signal by triangulating on the signal and determining if it’s a non- emergency or if it’s a real plane crash requiring additional EMS services.

Personal Locator Beacons (PLB). A PLB is a hand-held satellite-communicating emergency location device, similar to the ELT’s mentioned above.   If the owner has registered the unit, their data is retrieved when the PLB is activated.  When activated, the transmitted data makes its way to the State Search and Rescue coordinator, and the county where it is determined the alert is coming from.


Project Lifesaver

Project Lifesaver s an alliance with between the Sheriff’s Department and these organizations Project Lifesaver ,  Alzheimer’s Association  and Lions Clubs International.  It is administered by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Community Services Bureau and operated by Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue (SBCSAR).

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s department has tasked SBCSAR with locating lost individuals that are enrolled in  the Project Lifesaver program. SBCSAR utilizes special equipment and search management skills to quickly locate these individuals and return them safely to their families.  Project Lifesaver has a 100 percent success rate in part due to Search and Rescue teams like SBCSAR.

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