Civilian Search and Rescue
While all missing person searches remain a law enforcement function, there is often a need to integrate the services of Civilian Volunteers, both trained and untrained, in lost person searches. The Massachusetts Civilian Search and Rescue Plan is intended to augment search efforts through controlled integration of civilian resources. All resources, including civilian volunteers, must be managed in an organized, efficient manner under the supervision of law enforcement at the scene. This search and rescue plan will provide the most efficient utilization of civilian resources so as to assist law enforcement in locating missing persons without jeopardizing searches or the integrity of evidence; and to ensure that search and rescue operations in the Commonwealth are successful.

Civilian Search and Rescue Team 

Civilian Search and Rescue

Civilian Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams consist of volunteers identified by the Massachusetts State Police who are already members of an organized and trained group. These groups include dog handlers, experienced hikers, off-duty public safety personnel, and other civilians who have undergone some degree of search and rescue training.


Typically, private search and rescue organizations require that members undergo a certification process. In the event that they are activated by law enforcement, members arrive fully prepared, for the hazards and rigors...These civilians are often suitable for immediate deployment by law enforcement in varying terrain and conditions.

Who are Trained Civilian Searchers?

Trained civilian searchers are volunteers who are already members of an organized search and rescue team recognized by the Massachusetts State Police.


Members of Central MA Search and Rescue
Civilian searchers are required to achieve and maintain certain standards and training necessary for inclusion on State Police resource lists. Some of this training includes map and compass use, orienteering, equipment and supplies, tracking and clue awareness, SAR tactics, command structure and terminology, and probability of detection. These  search and rescue volunteers are well trained and qualified for deployment with law enforcement at any time and under any conditions.

How does someone become a member of a Civilian Search and Rescue team?

Central Massachusetts Search and Rescue Team
Attn: Mark Supernor
P.O. Box 575
Boylston, MA 01515

Berkshire Mountain Search and Rescue Team
Attn: Mike Comeau
Additional certification and training is offered by Northeast Wilderness Search and Rescue (NEWSAR) and National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) qualified instructors. For more information on NEWSAR or NASAR training write:
P.O. Box 52
Ware, MA 01082-0052
4500 Southgate Place, Suite 100
Chantilly, VA 20151

What if someone just wants to show up at the scene to help?

The Massachusetts State Police may from time to time require the assistance of untrained civilians as well. 

The Massachusetts State Police have protocols in place to assign these untrained volunteers to appropriate duties and functional responsibilities. All civilians wishing to volunteer under these circumstances should contact either State Police or their local law enforcement agency before reporting to the scene of any search and rescue operation.

It is important that all search efforts be undertaken with the supervision of the law enforcement agencies at the scene. Any attempts to search on your own, while well intentioned, may in fact lead to further risk of injury to the victim, as well as yourself.

Untrained civilian searchers may be assigned to functions such as logistical support, manning of perimeter listening posts, perimeter confinement, food distribution and dissemination of informational flyers; all roles that are necessary to support those who are deployed in the field.

In order to participate, untrained civilian volunteers, like the trained civilian volunteers, will be required to:

  • Supply verification of their name, address, and age
  • Submit to an EMT check of their physical condition
  • Sign a search and rescue volunteer waiver authorizing the Massachusetts State Police to conduct a criminal background check
  • Submit to an equipment check
  • Submit to a brief skills check
  • Receive any necessary equipment


State Police K-9

The Massachusetts State Police have determined acceptable certification procedures for civilian volunteers with specialized resources and skills such as K-9 handlers and Mounted Units. Further information can be obtained from: Massachusetts State Police, Civilian Search and Rescue Coordinator.


Click here to view the EOPSS Civilian Search and Rescue Plan Civilian Search and Rescue 2014  doc format of Civilian Search and Rescue 2014