Ravalli County Search & Rescue

About Us

Ravalli County Search and Rescue is an all volunteer organization with the purpose to:

  • conduct searches, effect rescues and aid persons in need.
  • to cooperate with other agencies and organizations to promote a more effective effort toward the preservation of human life.
  • to promote public education about outdoor survival.

Ravalli County Search and Rescue reports to the Sheriff's Department.


Once a person is considered missing usually a relative or friend will call 911. The Sheriff will have the Search and Rescue unit called out via pager. The members respond to the Search and Rescue building bringing along their individual packs and equipment. The teams pick up additional rescue gear, such as stretchers, ropes and radios, at the building. The Incident Commander briefs the team leaders and gives them instructions for the search. The teams drive as close to the search area as possible with the organization’s own vehicles. From there the operations begin on foot, with ATVs, boats, snowmobiles depending on the nature of the mission. The Incident Commander coordinates the mission, communicating with the teams in the field via radio. If necessary the Incident Commander calls for additional resources such as helicopters or emergency medical personnel. Once found the lost person’s physical condition is assessed. Search and rescue members are trained in First Aid and CPR. Some are certified Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians or Wilderness Emergency Medical Technicians. An appropriate evacuation method is chosen and depending on the situation the victim will be handed over to other emergency medical personnel. After the mission the teams return to the SAR building where they are debriefed by the Incident Commander, vehicles are refueled and the equipment is prepared for the next callout.


The Ravalli County Search and Rescue unit is made up of different teams with their own specialties. Each team has instructors, who are responsible for the team's training and team leaders, who are in charge of the teams on actual missions.

  • Incident Commanders, who coordinate the SAR missions, deploy the teams and call for support from other agencies as necessary, as well as communications specialists and drivers form the Overhead Team.
  • The Mountain Rescue Team specializes in Wilderness Search, Technical Rock Rescue and Snow & Ice Rescue. Its team members move primarily on foot with backpacks providing rescue and survival supplies for 72 hours.
  • Rescue operations on, in and under water are performed by the Water Rescue and Recovery Team, which consists of Swiftwater Rescue Technicians and Rescue Divers.


In order to maintain a high level of proficiency as a volunteer emergency service we must put in a lot of training hours every year. All members receive training in subjects such as wilderness navigation, survival, first aid and radio communications. A lot of training is team specific such as river, dive and rope rescue. The different team leaders are responsible for the training of their teams. They spend a lot of time and effort in preparing training classes and obtain official certifications to train you where available. Training takes place after every monthly meeting and on several weekends throughout the year.

Search and Rescue Work

SAR work is not glamorous. It is usually only plain, hard work. There are no regular hours on a rescue mission. Working hours are at any time and for as long as anything worthwhile can be accomplished. Each rescuer must be prepared to spend the night out in the wilderness. Personnel assigned to a SAR mission must work as directed by the Incident Commander and the team leaders. Discipline is a must. The most important factor in a rescue mission is its accomplishment. The professional application of skills and techniques and maintenance of safety standards is mandatory in the performance of all search and rescue tasks.


Any person sixteen years of age or older may apply for membership. Applicants must be of good moral character and not have been convicted of a felony. The application must be approved by the Sheriff’s Department. You will be interviewed by our Board. This gives us a chance to find out what your special abilities are, what hours you will be available, what duties you might like to perform, and so on. Searches by their very nature are a serious and sometimes grim experience. However we try to make it as enjoyable for everyone, and indeed we have fun on many occasions. We all welcome you to join us! Click here for more application information.


Please come and visit our monthly meeting on the second Thursday of each month at 6 PM at the Search and Rescue building 2029 N First Street, Hamilton.

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