How to Join the Team

What to expect if you'd like to join the team

  • How do I join the team?
    Applicant Requirements:
    1. Become an Applicant- By attending 3 Team Trainings and 3 Team Meetings within 5 months.
    a. At your first team meeting we will get your contact information. The Vice-Commander of the team will send you a copy of our training calendar and provide you with updates on training times and locations. (Some trainings you will not be able to attend and you will be credited an extension on the 5 month requirement for each Training or Meeting that you are prevented from attending)
    b. You will NOT be able to bring your canine to any Team Trainings until you become a sworn member of the Team.
    2. After fulfilling your attendance requirement you will be granted an interview with the SBSD Search Dog Team Board. The interview is to insure the Board that you understand and have the time and support necessary to become a SAR member as well as provide you with information or answer any questions you may have prior to applying.
    3. After successfully completing your interview you will be provided with a packet that will need to be filled out and returned to our Unit Coordinator. The packet will contain an application, physical examination requirement, background check and live scan finger print requirement. Please review the SBSAR website for additional information on the requirements you must meet to apply to become part of The San Bernardino County Sheriff Department SAR program.
    4. Once your application is approved you will be sworn into the SBSD Search Dog Team and begin a very rewarding journey towards helping your community.
    5. If you are a returning team member and it has been more than 5 years since you were on an SBSAR Team, you will be required to matriculate through BSAR again.
  • What is involved with being a Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer?
    Being a volunteer search-and-rescue team member can be very rewarding, but it also is very hard work and should not be taken lightly. The following considerations should be given if you are thinking about joining a search and rescue team:
    • Rescue work is not glamorous. It is usually only plain, hard work.
    • There are no regular hours on a search. Working hours are at any time and for as long as anything worthwhile can be accomplished.
    • It will not always be possible to return to headquarters or a restaurant at mealtime, or to a cabin at night. Each time a team goes into the field, they must be willing and prepared to spend the night in the field if the situation so demands
    • A team assigned to a search mission will work as directed by the incident commander in charge.
    • The most important factor in a search mission is its accomplishment, and not by whom it is accomplished.
    • The professional application of skills and techniques and practice of safety standards is mandatory in the performance of any and all search tasks.

    On average it takes about a year from joining a team until most members are trained to be field deployable and even longer if you are training a canine to become a certified canine handler. If you are willing to sacrifice your own needs for that of another, you are ready to become a search-and-rescue volunteer. SAR Universally shares the motto “so that others may live”.
  • What type of special training requirements are there?
    To actively participate in the field on SAR missions as a SAR volunteer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department, you will be required to complete mandatory training in several key areas. Once you are sworn into the Search Dog Team all of the training you will receive will be provided at no cost. However, deposits for courses are required in some instances but returned once you complete the course. Each search and rescue volunteer must complete a 60-hour Basic Search and Rescue (BSAR) class and pass both a field and written test. This course is taught twice a year, at a departmental training facility in our local mountains and requires you to attend 3 training weekends in which you will stay on site.

    The Basic SAR (BSAR) training includes:
    Knot Tying
    Radio Communications
    Grid Searches
    24-Hour SAR Pack
    First Aid/CPR (as required)
    Survival Skills
    Search Skills
  • What equipment will I need for SAR and how much should I expect to spend?
    You will need to have your own personal gear. You will be required to purchase your own uniform for both dress and field deployments. You are required to purchase the SBSD uniform shirt and required patches. You will also be responsible for purchasing additional clothing including but not limited to individual trousers, headgear, footwear and outerwear for field appropriate for the season an environment. There are a number of other items you will need to purchase and are required to be carried in your SAR pack when deployed. If you are already involved in outdoor activities you may already have most of the equipment you need for SAR; however, if you are outfitting from scratch the cost can be considerable and should be carefully considered before committing to SAR. You don’t need the most expensive brand name gear to outfit yourself properly, but your gear must be of reasonable quality to be functional and safe. If you are outfitting from scratch with reasonable quality gear you may initially spend up to $1000 plus. We do require you to be dressed and outfitted correctly for your safety and your fellow teammates in order to accomplish a mission. You will be required to use your own personal vehicle to drive to team meetings and team trainings. There is no mileage reimbursement. You may opt to or be asked to use your personal vehicle in some SAR missions but this is optional. Some of your SAR expenses are tax deductable and you should consult your tax account for additional information.

    In addition since you are considering joining a specialty team you will occur additional expenses related to canine gear, training and maintenance. There is no Team defined list of gear that you need to purchase for your canine, but there are items that you will need to have in order to safely deploy in the discipline you chose to train your canine in and the environment in which you will be deploying. The best way to gain insight into the gear you will need it to talk to other handlers and see what they use for their canines. The expected cost for handling a canine will depend a lot on where you get your canine from and what discipline you are training in. On average if you purchase a canine from a reputable breeding with predisposed genetic guarantees you can expect to spend between $2000.00 to $3000.00 dollars. If you get a canine from another source it is very important that you understand how to test the canine for the proper drive to perform search dog work. Gear expenses initially will be cheap but you can expect by the time your train the canine and are certified to spend between $1000.00 to $2000.00 dollars the first year or two. The cost can vary depending on if you pay for professional trainers services or decide to attend training clinics, but it is an expensive investment.
  • Is there continuing education?
    Each year as a Regular Member on a SAR Team, you will be required to recertify in basic SAR skills. If you chose to become certified in advanced skills such as Rope Operator, Advanced Rope Operator, Basic Mountaineering you will be required to intermittently recertify in each discipline as defined by the SAR Manual. You and your canine will also be required to recertify in the discipline that you choose to train in at a maximum interval of every two years.
  • How does the team train?
    The SBSD Search Dog Team trains a little different than other search dog teams and it is important that you understand what level of support and help to expect to receive from the team when training your canine. We are only required to train as a team one time a month, which means that you will need to seek out resources to help train your canine in the discipline that you chose. The team has no obligation to help you train your canine. We are all volunteers and have outside jobs and responsibilities; most of us are NOT professional dog trainers and as handlers have had to seek help from outside resources and trainers in order to prepare our canines for certification.

    Because we all have different schedules there are a number of members that train together at different times and locations throughout the week. All of our Team Members are more than willing to help you train if you let them know that you want to train with them. What usually happens is that groups of members that are training in a specific discipline get together throughout the week but usually it is a discipline specific training. If you do not know what discipline you want to train your canine in, the best advice would be to ask who is training in what discipline and attend their trainings to get the exposure to what all of us do and then decide. It is important that if you ask to attend a training with Team Members that you SHOW UP, ARE ON TIME, PREPEARED TO TRAIN, HAVE THE EQUIPMENT YOU NEED TO TRAIN YOUR DOG AND HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. It is up to the group whether they want you to bring your canine to the first training, but most members are anxious to meet our new four legged prospective team member.

    Applicants that already own canines that want to use them for search dog work need to understand that not all canines have the drive to perform the job. It is important that you not be offended if Team Members point this out to you in the course of evaluating your canine. It typically takes about 700 hours of training the first year to prepare a canine team for certification, which is above and beyond the hours it takes to train the Handler the skills necessary to be a SAR member. Remember we are volunteering the time and effort to help you train, so spending that time on a canine that will not be able to do the job is not productive for anyone. You may chose at this point to seek out other resources to help you train, but it is not a personal attack, we deploy our canines to help save lives or bring closure to families, it is not fair to anyone to deploy a subpar canine team on a search.

Trainee Members

  • What is a trainee member?
    A trainee member is someone who has been sworn on the team but is in their first year of membership. You will have certain training requirements you'll need to fulfill, but you will also have certain rights as a member.
  • What training am I required to fulfill in the first year as a member?
    1. Within the first year of being sworn in it is required that you will attain the following certifications.
    a. Basic Search and Rescue Academy- The course is taught at a departmental training facility in our local mountains you are required to attend 3 training weekends in which you will stay on site. All members of the SAR program in San Bernardino County have to take this course.
    i. You will need to wear your team uniform to BSAR Academy. This will require you to buy a Team Unit patch from the team and a blaze orange shirt. There are several local uniform shops that have the required patches and can attach them to your shirt. Please consult the SAR manual for placement or another team member. (Pristine Uniforms in Rancho Cucamonga)
    ii. You will need to sign-up for BSAR through Volunteer Forces and provide a deposit check which will be returned when you attend.
    iii. You will need to have your BSAR Prerequisite Training Form completed and signed off prior to attending. This form contains a list of skills that you need to be familiar with on order to attend BSAR. Skills include Map reading, Compass, GPS familiarization, Tracking familiarization, Knot tying, 24 hr Pack contents). Team members will assist you in becoming proficient at these skills and sign off your sheet. The form is available for review on the SBSAR website Document page.
    b. Take the drivers awareness course called EVOC , in order to drive county vehicles (Need to sign-up through Volunteer Forces)
    i. You need to possess a valid Driver’s License
    ii. Need to have valid car insurance
    iii. After you have completed EVOC you will receive a PIN number to be able to get gasoline at gas stations for the Dept. vehicles. This number comes from the Team Coordinator.
    c. CLETS is an online test that the Department requires you to take since you will sometimes be dealing with sensitive information.
    d. CPR/First Aid. The county does provide courses that cover this requirement (Check with Volunteer Forces)
    e. FEMA Incident Command System Training Modules (online training only) The department requires that the following online courses also be completed prior to being field deployable. You will need to provide completion certificates to the team secretary and Volunteer Forces. ICS 100 Introduction to Incident Command Systems ICS 200 Introduction for Single Resources and Initial Action Plans ICS 700 A National Incident Management System - An Introduction ICS 800 b National Response Framework - An Introduction
  • What responsibilities will I have as a trainee member?
    a. Attend 60% of the monthly Team Trainings and Team Meetings and after being BSAR certified 20% of the SAR Missions annually.
    b. Submit monthly STATS by the 3rd of each month to the team secretary.
    c. Pay yearly Team Dues
    d. Participate in PR and Fundraising Events
    e. Help with Team related Administrative needs
    f. Wear either your SAR uniform or Team Training uniform to canine trainings once a month.
    g. Maintain all the required certifications and training logs for you and your canine to be mission ready.
  • What rights do I have as a trainee member?
    a. Team Member voting rights (after also completing First/Aid, CLETS and FEMA trainings)
    b. Participate in all team meetings and trainings
    c. Bring your canine to Team Trainings that allow canine participation
    d. Team email
    e. Placed on the Team Text List (Until you are BSAR certified and complete First/Aid, CLETS and FEMA trainings, you will not be allowed to deploy on missions)
    f. Access to Team documents on the Google Drive.
    g. Attend SBSAR functions
    h. Attend additional certification modules that the department offers such as (Rope Operator courses, OHV, Basic Mountaineering, Fire Evacuation Training, Urban Disaster training, etc…)
    i. Be issued a building and gate card so that you may enter sections of the Emergency Operations Building in order to attend Team Meetings and gain access to the Team vehicle. This card is issued by the Team Coordinator