- Voluntary work outdoors helping the lost and injured
- You'll need experience in navigation and outdoor activities
- Opportunities to specialise in particular rescue methods
As a search and rescue worker, you'll voluntarily help find lost or injured people in mountains, rivers, caves or coastal areas, dedicating a certain amount of your time each month to training and call-outs. These roles are typically unpaid, although you may be able to claim an allowance or expenses.
- Responding to emergency call-outs
- Handling rescue dogs to find casualties
- Giving first aid to injured people
- Guiding lost individuals or groups to safety (for example off a mountain)
- Working closely with other rescue teams, emergency services and air ambulance
- Searching for missing people in urban or semi-urban areas
- Securing forensic evidence at potential crime scenes
- Checking and maintaining equipment
- Taking part in fundraising events
- Giving talks and presentations on what your team does
- Attending regular training sessions to keep your skills up to date
- You may also take part in river, floodwater, cliff, or cave rescues if you've had specialist training
You could work in remote rural areas, and your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and be physically and emotionally demanding.
To become a search and rescue worker, you'll need a desire to help people, knowledge of public safety and security, sensitivity and understanding, the ability to work well with others, the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning, patience and calmness in stressful situations, physical fitness and endurance, and thoroughness and attention to detail.
You can do a college course in outdoor education, rock-climbing or first aid to learn some of the skills you'll need to join a rescue team. You'll still need experience in hill walking and map reading if you want to volunteer for a team after completing your course.
You can also do a Level 4 specialist rescue operative apprenticeship, which would give you the required skills to work in rescue operations at height or underground.
You can volunteer to join a search and rescue team. They hold recruitment days during the year, which involve going out with team members who assess your suitability for training. You'll be expected to have experience in hill walking, reading maps and using a compass. You'll also need knowledge of the rescue team's operational area. Other skills like climbing and first aid will be useful, though not essential. If you're selected, you'll be given training over a 12-month probationary period, which will include search and rescue skills; first aid; casualty and stretcher handling; survival techniques; navigation, GPS and radio communications; and working with helicopter teams. After 12 months, your colleagues will decide whether you're ready to join them as a full team member.
You may be able to apply directly if you've got a lot of experience of search and rescue work, for example from serving in the armed forces, acting as a specialist rescue worker in industry or working as a firefighter.
You'll need to be over 18 years of age, have a good level of fitness, have a full driving licence, and be able to swim. You'll also need to live close to the rescue team's operating base, usually within 20 to 40 minutes by car.
With experience, you could specialise in particular rescue methods, like swift water and cave rescue, or take on responsibility for rescue dog training or vehicle servicing. You could even become a rescue team leader, operations co-ordinator or training officer. These positions are still all voluntary.