Most local jurisdictions do not have enough incidents to provide sufficient experience for well trained and equipped internal ground search and rescue units. Working with the PA Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), the PSARC has developed a two-tier coordination support system. This assists local-level responsible agencies when they need assistance in a ground search and rescue operation. The first coordination tier provides information to local officials through PEMA with PSARC Emergency Preparedness liaison Officers (EPLOs). Working within the PEMA Emergency Operations Center, EPLOs from the PSARC are able to provide general or detailed information on the availability of SAR resources from across the Commonwealth. This EPLO system is designed to get appropriate information and resources to responsible agencies without delay. If local responsible officials need additional support, the second tier of coordination is the PSARC Mission Resource Coordinator (MRC). The PSARC MRC is a individual with wide command experience in lost person search and rescue operations; available to consult by phone and pro vide assistance to on-scene incident command management. The role of the MRC is especially useful in large searches over a period of days where assistance from search teams from other sections of the Commonwealth may be useful to relieve existing teams and/or provide special services that may not be available locally. In rare instances, the MRC may travel to the incident to provide on-scene assistance.
In this arrangement, the goal is to provide local government agencies "one-stop shopping" for the resources to do the job efficiently and effectively.
In the United States all associations and confederations of volunteer professionalsearch and rescue units have affiliations with state emergency management agencies. This is especially the case in Pennsylvania. Representatives from PSARC meet on a regular basis with PEMA officials to discuss issues of mutualinterest. This natural relationship exists in part because of the lan guage of Annex V of the Emergency Operations Plan for Pennsylvania where volunteer profes sional organizations and public agencies are encouraged to work together to address common emergency services needs, and the special role of the PSARC is recognized. PEMA is supportive of the development of PSARC training standards, and PEMA has played a leadership role in facilitating the developing of the EPLO program and the Mission Resource Coordinator role in Pennsylvania.
Experience and capability of PSARC member teams varies. Some units have considerable experience. Other SAR units are just getting underway. In their formative stages they join PSARC for cross training and for exposure to more experienced units. Most PSARC units provide
comprehensive lost person search and rescue services. Several units provide both manpower for ground search operations and dog handlers with air scent dogs. Other units have tracking dogs. Two units use horses to assist their search operations. Several PSARC units carry the prestigious national Mountain Rescue Association certification.
The major purpose of the coordinated efforts of PSARC teams is to provide a comprehensive approach to lost person search and rescue efforts in the field. When PSARC teams provide mutual aid services, or when more then one PSARC team is at a search mission, teams work together in an Incident Command System unified command structure.
PSARC teams have personnel with significant experience in Incident Command System operations. That experience is available to assist responsible officials from local and county governments.
The PSARC has adopted standards for ground SAR personnel working in search and rescue operations. These standards, based on minimum qualifications individuals should possess, cover Call-Out Qualified personnel (the apprentice ground searcher), Field Team Members, Field Team Leaders, Dog Handlers, Incident Command Staff, and Incident Commanders. Additional new standards are also being considered. All standards are periodically reviewed. PSARC works closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR); DCNR offers statewide testing and certification to the PSARC Field Team Member stan dards, and starting in 1999, to the PSARC Field Team Leader standards.