Who We Are
We are Search And Rescue (SAR) volunteers who have additional training focused on tracking. Tracking requires many hours of practice and a detail-oriented personality. The identification of “sign” often means crawling on the ground inspecting the dirt, plants and stones that may have been disturbed by the passage of the search subject. SAR Trackers are trained in search techniques as well as mantracking. They often are members of SAR units that have simply taken on a specialty just as other members have become dog handlers or members of a technical climbing team.
The use of tracking in Search And Rescue has gained popularity in the past few years for several reasons. One of those reasons is because mantracking has proven to be a valuable resource that may help shorten the search. Another reason is the increased availability of tracking certifications and training, thus making trained mantrackers more available as a resource.
Search Managers can make use of mantrackers to identify the Direction of Travel and narrow the search area significantly. In some cases, mantrackers can follow a subject through areas or in conditions that search dogs cannot. These are examples of why the use of tracking in SAR is valuable.
Not all conditions allow for fast and efficient tracking, just as not every search can be concluded quickly by bringing in a helicopter. For example if the weather is bad, a helicopter often cannot fly. Conditions affect all SAR resources: dogs, air support, ground personnel and technical climbing teams. This is why it is important for a SAR unit to have as many different resources available as possible. The SAR Manager can utilize the resource that fits the conditions and situation. Fortunately, trackers can work in most weather conditions – heavy or long-lasting rains are the only natural enemies of the SAR tracker.
Since many SAR trackers are also trained in search techniques there is an added bonus: even if the conditions are not good for tracking, the mantracker is still a resource for the SAR Manager as a searcher. It is also a good idea for all SAR personnel to obtain at least an awareness of tracking. Searchers may come across tracks at anytime during a search and unless they can recognize the significance of those tracks and protect them from being destroyed, the tracks cannot become another clue that aids in the successful outcome of the search. The ‘tracking aware’ searcher can alert the SAR Manager of the tracks found, and a more experienced mantracker can examine the ‘sign’ to determine how significant it is and perhaps find more clues that will help in the overall effort.
SAR trackers can be an asset to any SAR team; and mantracking is another skill that can be used to increase the chances of success on many searches.
What We Do
Ideally, an experienced mantracker will be called to the Last Known Point of the missing person as soon as possible – before any of the existing “sign” is disturbed or obliterated. This will allow the mantracker to collect detailed information about the footwear impressions left by the subject. This information is crucial for the mantracker and may mean the difference between successfully following a subject and going nowhere.
After collecting and recording all of the available information from the scene, the tracker will begin following the sign to determine the direction of travel. Sometimes this means following the sign all the way to the lost person. Often the path indicates a general direction that was taken and other teams can move into the identified area and begin searching. If this is done by another tracking team it is called “sign-cutting”. This practice allows for a methodical approach to be taken in the fastest possible manner. If another tracking team is not available, then the area can be searched using normal search techniques. Either way, the search area is significantly reduced which increases the odds of finding the subject quickly.