Chapter 3 - Structure

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Responsibilities for Search and Rescue

There are so many groups, both volunteer and government, involved in aspects of search and rescue that it is understandable that the public and the news media are confused about who carries the final responsibility. An agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States in 1962 made it clear that Police are responsible for all searches on land and coastal waters.

Bush Search and Rescue is set up to assist Police and responds only to requests for help from the Victoria Police.

BSAR search briefing Mt Stirling 2001

Searchers gathered for a briefing by Police Search & Rescue Squad at the practice held on Mt Stirling 2001


Call-Out Systems

Police requests for assistance are directed to BSAR Police Liaison Officers (PLOs), who first arranges for a Field Organiser (FO).

For a General Call-out the PLO then telephones the Club Contacts, who then telephone their individual club members.  This is also known as a telephone tree.

For a Rapid Response Call-out the PLO then contacts BSAR members by SMS, Email and Automated Telephony

The call-out procedures are summarised in Figure 3.1 and the role and qualifications of PLOs are listed in Chapter 12.


 Figure 3.1 Call-out system


For a Local Call-out, a country club is called out by the local Police, the Club Contact then notifies a PLO of the call-out.

For longer duration searches, there may be more than one call-out issued to BSAR members.

For more information see:


 BSAR Country members joined search at Tawonga Gap 2001

BSAR country members joined search at Tawonga Gap 2001


Field Structure

In the field, Bushwalkers Search and Rescue’s contribution to a search is controlled by a Field Organiser, who reports directly to Police. The FO may appoint a deputy and will usually organise searchers into groups of four, including an experienced Group Leadet On a large and complex search, the FO may use other FOs to control several groups to achieve a particular task. A typical field organisation is illustrated in Figure 3.2. The roles and detailed duties of FOs, Group Leaders and Members are outlined in Chapter 8.

Search Field Structure 

Figure 3.2 Field structure


Skills and Experience

All members, both men and women, are skilled, experienced bushwalkers and navigators, with all necessary equipment. Many members have first aid training, while some are expert rock climbers, mountaineers, cross-country skiers, cavers and canoeists. All members must meet specified standards of experience in bushwalking and are encouraged to gain further experience in the fields listed above. Some members have participated in expeditions to New Zealand, Europe, the Andes, the Himalaya and Antarctica.


Practice weekends include instruction sessions in search and rescue techniques and also simulated searches and rescues. It is not necessary to train members in bushcraft and camping, because the entry requirements ensure that they come with these skills and because their normal bushwalking and outdoor activities continue to hone those skills. Training sometimes concentrates on a specific aspect of search and rescue, such as searching in heavy snow on skis and snow-shoes, or mountain rescue. Search practices are run in collaboration with the Police Search and Rescue Squad.

See also: Training

Workshop session in progress Mt Stirling practice 2001
Workshop session in progress Mt Stirling practice 2001


Updated 18 Mar 2011