The Massachusetts State Police Incident Management Assistance Team ( IMAT) has the responsibility of coordinating and managing major critical incidents as they occur in the Commonwealth. IMAT, a unit within the State Police Bureau of Tactical Operations, consists of 14 command post specialists trained in advanced incident-management procedures, techniques and equipment. These command post specialists are available for immediate deployment to coordinate incident response efforts or to offer general support to federal, state or local agencies with particular incidents. Examples of critical incidents may include natural disasters, plane crashes, hazardous material (HAZMAT) incidents, hostage situations, and visits from dignitaries. IMAT has also played a key role in lost person searches. They have extensive experience, knowledge and skills in the latest search strategies, assessments and methodologies.
In 1999, there were more than 146 searches for missing persons by the Massachusetts State Police. This number does not take into account the searches performed by local police departments.
Upon request from a local police department, the Massachusetts State Police shall assist by operating in a supporting role. State Police Tactical Operations has established the "Force Package Concept of Operations" to ensure that requests for special operations are responded to in a manner that is prompt, coordinated, and comprehensive. The three elements of the Force Package Concept are command and coordination of personnel, the use of specialized operational resources and use of general support resources. In addition to IMAT, some of the Massachusetts State Police Search and Rescue capabilities include the following teams within the Bureau of Tactical Operations:
Special Emergency Response Team (SERT)
Consists of fifty troopers who are stationed at barracks throughout the state and who are specially trained and equipped to respond to searches and other emergency situations. SERT troopers are skilled in Land Navigation, Tactical Team Leader, Lost Person Search Management, and are equipped with emergency equipment for protracted wilderness operations. Team members have been training with other agencies including the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Mass. Environmental Police (EPO), as well as Civilian Search and Rescue Teams.
State Police K-9 Unit handlers are trained as Tactical Team Leaders, certified in Search Management as well as Incident Command, and other search tactics such as "Hasty Team" Searches. All State Police K-9 Teams are trained to locate human scent by tracking, air scenting, or locating last known places (LKP's). They have specialized equipment and are capable in protracted wilderness search operations. State Police K-9 supervisors have been working closely toward certifying those qualified Civilian Volunteer K-9 Unit handlers.
Massachusetts State Police Tactical Emergency Medical Technician troopers deploy into the field to assist with search and rescue operations. They provide immediate remote-on-scene emergency medical assistance to either victims or searchers who become injured during an operation. They are equipped with advanced field medical packs and emergency evacuation gear for removal of injured persons from isolated wilderness locations. EMT-Tactical teams respond to searches with the Tactical Operations Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) which is stocked with medical and support equipment for field deployment. State Police Tactical EMT have been providing general physical assessment for volunteer civilian search and rescue personnel.
The Massachusetts State Police Air Wing deploys advanced technology on an aerial search platform to support lost person searches. Some of the resources and capabilities the Air Wing can provide are three medivac equipped utility helicopters with Technisonic police radios to direct communications with any police agency, simulcast relay, 30 Million candlepower NIGHTSUN search lights, thermal imaging (heat detecting) systems to allow night searches, microwave downlink transmitters for thermal imager/color video camera, night vision goggles, moving map/GPS and repelling/short haul, mountain rescue and water rescue capabilities. Tactical Flight Officers (TFO's) have been training with various organized Civilian Search and Rescue teams across the state.
Tactical Operations & Mounted Unit currently maintains over twenty mounts for deployment to assist at lost person searches. The Mounted Unit is regularly deployed to cover large wilderness and isolated areas. State Police Mounted Unit riders have been deployed in lost person searches from Mount Greylock in the Berkshires to Martha's Vineyard.
Underwater Recovery Unit
The Underwater Recovery Unit currently has over 26 Rescue/Recovery divers. Divers of the Underwater Recovery Unit are activated to provide water operations assessment and planning when the search area contains a body of water possibly involved in the search.