The Humboldt County Search & Rescue Team has three Units: Ground, Marine, and Mounted. Many of us are members of multiple units. When the Sheriff’s department calls on us we are ready to respond any time of the year, day or night.
The Ground Unit is called upon to find missing persons, whether it is injured or
overdue hikers, a family member with dementia, or a small child that cannot be
found. We search in all weather, darkness, and treacherous terrain, rural or urban.
When called on, we also travel out of the county for mutual aid to help SAR teams in other counties (Trinity, Del Norte, Mendocino, and beyond). Our team also deploys to ensure the safety of participants in local events; you may see us in parades, at the Kinetic Sculpture Race, the Clam Beach Run, or elsewhere during county activities.
The Ground Unit is complemented by certified search dogs. These dogs are certified through the California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) Which works under the California Office of Emergency Services.
It takes approximately two years of consistent training for the Handler and the Dog to be qualified to take the Mission-Ready Test to become a certified search dog. There are three primary disciplines for which the K-9s can be trained: Wilderness Area Search where the K-9 runs free from the handler and is trained to find people in the wilderness environment; Scent Specific Trailing in both the urban and wilderness setting – these dogs are given a scent article from the missing person and they will only be looking for that individual; Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs who are trained to find deceased subjects in various settings. Currently, our SAR team has one dog that is certified in Trailing and HRD. There are two other dogs preparing to take their certification tests; one is an Area Specialist and the other is a HRD K-9. The SAR dogs are another valuable tool to assist in locating missing people and bringing closure to families.
The Marine Unit is composed of SAR members who have an interest in boat operations. Each person is required to have a minimum of a California Boaters Card. Unit personnel are trained to tow, launch, and pilot our boats in teams of two. Our deployment requires experienced pilots due to many challenging locations. Humboldt County has various boating environments to navigate; the Lagoons, Humboldt Bay, and our Rivers (Klamath, Trinity, Redwood Creek, Mad, Van Duzen, and Eel). The SAR team boats can operate in all of these regions. The Marine unit operates three vessels. The smallest is our 14′ Klamath with a 25 hp Mercury jet drive. In addition, we have a 16′ Jon boat with a 65 hp Honda jet drive. The largest of our boats is a 21′ Airboat which has a big-block V-8 motor with a pair of propellers. This is a unique piece of equipment primarily used in extremely shallow water. It has been used several times for rescues in Ferndale during flood stage conditions. Its ability to maneuver in Humboldt Bay on the mud-flats is another valuable feature.
All three boats are equipped with type 1 life jackets for victims of all ages, First Aid supplies, and United States Coast Guard safety equipment.
The Mounted Unit is composed of SAR members and their mounts. The Mounted members provide their own equine mount, tack, and transportation. Training for this group includes acclimating the horse to loud noises such as ATVs involved in searches. Searches occasionally can utilize mounted members to cross large amounts of terrain, including crossing still and moving water. A mounted searcher has a higher viewpoint than those on foot or ATVs. The mount becomes an additional searcher with extra keen senses. The Mounted Unit is also one of the most publicly seen groups within SAR, participating in parades around Humboldt County.