Frequently asked questions

What skills do I need for bush searches? Experience in overnight bushwalking and the ability to navigate off-track.

What skills do I need for snow searches? Most winter searches are in the snowfields, so previous snow camping experience is essential. The ability to use snowshoes or skis is highly desirable. Some members choose not to participate in snow searches.

What gear do I need? Come equipped with your own bushwalking gear to spend two nights in the bush or snow. However, most searching is undertaken as day tasks returning to base to camp. Some extra equipment is required for snow conditions.

How do I pack my gear for a search?  Bring all the gear you may need for the search (depending on conditions advised) in a large marked duffle bag and your pack.  You will select gear for search tasks and load your pack on location.  A small bag or daypack is good to have on the bus too.

Can I use my car to get to the search? No. The Police provide bus transport for BSAR searchers.  An exception to this must be authorised by the BSAR Police Liaison Officer.

What skills do I need for steep snow and ice rescues? Steep snow and ice rescues can be hazardous. You must have mountaineering and ice climbing experience using ice axes, ropes, harness, crampons and ice belay equipment.  You must also own your own ice climbing equipment.  There are very few steep snow and ice call outs compared to bush searches. A relatively small number of BSAR members participate in steep snow and ice rescues.

Is there an age limit? No. You’re almost never too old to join, but you must be at least 18. Our oldest members are very fit and capable 70 somethings!

When do I go? Call outs can happen at any time, often late in the evening. SAR’s call out SMS and email systems often can provide early alerts prior to a search call out. This allows searchers to consider their availability and make arrangements in the event a search call out proceeds.

How do I get to the search area? You will be picked up from a designated departure point. The Police provide bus transport to and from search locations.

What training is available? Annual training activities cover search and rescue techniques, and hone navigation skills. There are opportunities to meet and work with fellow BSAR members from different clubs.  Specific training on use of equipment such as GPS and radios is provided.

What do I tell the boss? Support from your employer in advance for your two-day commitment to a search is essential. This is the same support employers provide for CFA and SES members.

Can I decline a call out? Yes, of course. Family, work or other commitments will prevent some members from responding to a call out. A call out must be declined if you are not 100% fit or your gear is not in good order at the time of the call.

Am I covered by insurance? Yes. You are covered under the Victorian Emergency Management Act 1986 while on a search or during designated Bush Search and Rescue training.

When do I get issued with BSAR safety clothing?  New members get a welcome pack with a hi-vis cap and beanie when they join.  After two active events (training and/or searches) members are eligible for a high-vis softshell jacket and shirt.  These are provided subject to funding being available and there may be a delay sending them as a bulk order must be placed.

General FAQ

Should I call 000 during an emergency or activate my Personal Locator Beacon?

  • The first option is to call 000 if you can – ask for Police and explain the situation.  The information provided helps them respond appropriately.
  • For an emergency in the bush, when it’s possible to call 000, always ask for Police.  Do not ask for an ambulance. Police will arrange all necessary resources, including an ambulance.
  • Your PLB (if you have one) should only be activated if you cannot call 000. The PLB will only provide a location and a distress signal. Police will check with the person PLB is registered to.   Only activate a PLB if there is grave and imminent danger.  The satellite alert is relayed via AMSA to the relevant Police authority for action.  In Victoria this is Victoria Police Search and Rescue.
It would be great to see more people involved in Bush Search and Rescue, so please consider participating in this very worthwhile volunteer community service.