Group Leaders

This page describes the role of the Group Leader during searches.

En route to the search

 The Field Organiser will advise you as Group Leaders the members in your group.
1. Transfer the names to your log.
2. Identify, introduce and bring together your group members and question them on:
  • Completeness of food and equipment – tents, cutting implements, cord, first aid, stove and fuel, full water bottles, clothing, maps, toilet paper marker, whistles, sleeping bags, mats, skis, specialist equipment, food, clothing, etc.
  • Physical fitness.
  • Previous search and practice experience.
  • First aid qualifications and experience.

3. Appoint a First Aider.

4. Instruct your group members to remain together and with you, including when at base and in camp. Ensure that this occurs.

At search base

1. Obtain or make written instructions on the area that your group is to search.
2. Ascertain, and check personally if possible, the names, areas and radio call signs of the other Group Leaders, especially those whose search area is adjacent to yours.
3. Re-check and record any rendezvous times and places, including the latest time to return to base.
4. Check and record your task and any transport arrangements for getting into the field and back to base.
5. Obtain maps of search area, preferably one per group member. Ensure map has a grid and map datum is known. If maps do not have grid numbers, find out what they are and write them on the map.
6. When issued with a portable radio:
  • allocate it to a competent operator (which may be yourself)
  • test it before leaving base
  • if issued with a spare battery, ensure that you know how to change it
  • arrange, check and record schedules
  • ascertain and record your own, and other important call signs
  • ensure that a message pad is readily available to the opera¬tor, and that messages received and sent are put in writing
  • make sure that the operator stays with you and is under your control
  • check the recall arrangements.

7. When issued with a GPS unit:

  • allocate it to a competent operator
  • check battery status and unit operation
  • ensure you have spare batteries
  • check configuration of unit including map datum and grid reference format
  • confirm your current location is correctly displayed on the unit
  • store the location of search base as a Waypoint. Call it ‘base’
  • store the location of the start of your search task as another Waypoint.

Ensure your search task is clear and brief your group

If you are unsure with what you are required to do in your search area, discuss the details with the FO or the Deputy FO before setting out.
Fully brief your group on the instructions and requirements for the search.
  1. Remind your group of the importance of operating as a coherent unit in the field.
  2. Discuss with your group appropriate strategies to ensure that the group does not become separated while in the field. Reach a clear understanding on the course of action that the group is to follow to re-unite the group if one member should become separated from the rest of the group in the field.
  3. Oversee the packing of appropriate food and equipment by your group members. Ensure water bottles are filled.
  4. Ensure all necessary group and special equipment is shared appropriately and is packed.
  5. Ensure the surplus gear of your group members is placed to¬gether in one secure location, as directed by the FO.

In the field

The normal principles and practice of good bushwalking leadership should be followed. Constantly monitor the group members to ensure their well being, that effective searching is taking place, and that there is no risk of group members becoming separated.

  1. Maintain a log of the progress of your search, significant events, radio messages and grid references.
  2. Precise navigation is essential. Encourage each group member to monitor their position and to regularly confirm progress with each other.
  3. Leave toilet paper markers at key points or lines of travel (e.g. drop off point, search area boundaries, creek junctions in your search area.) Detailed notes or markers should also be left at other prominent features (including camp sites), especially if you are on an overnight search in your area, or if you do not have radio communications with base. Notes should include date, time, group details and intentions. Any clues found (eg footprints) should be reported and the site marked.
  4. If the missing person is found, immediately communicate with the search base. This may involve two members moving to a nearby high point, if local circumstances and the condition of the missing person permit this to be done with safety.
  5. If radio contact cannot be effected, two experienced members of the group should return to the base, leaving a trail that is distinct from both directions, once again provided this can be done, considering the safety of both the missing person and your group members.
  6. Once radio communication is established the search command will determine the course of action required to evacuate the missing person, considering your advice on the circumstances of the situation.
  7. The designated (qualified) first aid member of the group has absolute control of the management of the casualty(s). All treatment and observations must be recorded.
  8. Your group may have to deal with a deceased person. Do not move a corpse unless instructed, or if it is necessary to prevent its loss (e.g. rising floodwaters). Preserve the scene.

On return to base

  1. Promptly give a brief report to the FO. You will be expected to mark on the master map precisely the areas searched by your group.
  2. Provide specific OPS data on the route taken by your group and if required, download the data from your OPS unit.
  3. Continue to keep your search group members together while at search base, in camp or in accommodation.
  4. Refer any questions from the press to the Police. If you are nominated by the Police or FO to speak to the press, try to obtain a briefing on the parameters within which you are to confine your comments. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts before making comment and give facts, not opinions or speculations.
  5. At the conclusion of the search, ensure all your group members’ shared equipment and BSAR gear is returned.

Following the search

  1. If your search group played a key role in the search, (e.g. found the missing person), or was involved in any significant incident that affected the course of the search, a detailed written report should be prepared for the FO.
  2. If you have any constructive suggestions for improving the organisation make a concise written report and forward it to the FO or the BSAR Convener.

 2003 Edition

Last Updated on February 17, 2021