Sheriff’s office elite group of search and rescue volunteers

Part of my job as county supervisor is to keep you informed
about the many programs and services under the umbrella of Santa
Clara County government.
Part of my job as county supervisor is to keep you informed about the many programs and services under the umbrella of Santa Clara County government. Not many people realize that the Sheriff’s Office is directly a part of county government services right along with parks, libraries, health services, district attorney, roads, and more. Fewer people know that we even have our own volunteer Search and Rescue Team.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SCCSSAR) Team is part of the Special Operations Division of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office. SCCSSAR members are a group of approximately 55 men and women, 18 years and older, who range from retired corporate executives to working college students who all share a passion for public safety and service to the community.

The Team responds to an average of 25 requests for assistance per year – totaling a whopping 2,500 volunteer hours! The requests include urban search and rescue responses; rope rescue on steep slopes; downed aircraft search, rescue and recovery; support for major community events; community preparedness and preventative Search and Rescue (SAR) education and even evidence recovery for law enforcement investigations.

These highly trained volunteers are on-call 24/7 to assist local, county, state and federal government agencies in times of emergencies. In fact, they have been involved in several emergency searches in South County in the past few months.

Collectively, SCCSSAR members train more than 1,000 hours each year and are certified in Advanced First Aid, Rescue Systems, Tracking, Swift Water Rescue, Rope Rescue, Large Animal Rescue and Search Management, as well as Canine, Equine and ATV SAR techniques. They attend a minimum of 16 hours of training each month and personally invest hundreds to thousands of dollars in their own personal equipment.

The Team also responds to major and extended out-of county incidents, statewide, through the California Office of Emergency Services; Mutual Aid Plan. Also, as a Sheriff’s Office resource, the team has supported the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, during major wildland fire incidents.

In the past several years, the Team has been called in for assistance on regional searches for high profile cases including 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in the Central Valley, 5-year-old Hassani Campbell in the East Bay and searches relating to the discovery of kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard in Antioch.

SCCSAR has a number of “specialty teams” including the Canine Team, ATV Team, OES Type I Team (high altitude). The teams not only provide valuable resources for the community but also provide a forum for interested members to advance their skills in a particular area of Search and Rescue. The specialty teams undergo additional training in their particular discipline, outside of the regular team training meetings.

Prevention is also important to SCCSAR: They recently partnered with a group called EmFinders to provide cellular-based wearable locator bracelets to residents of Santa Clara County for free. The locators will aid in the speedy recovery of at-risk individuals who are prone to wandering and becoming lost due to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and autism. The device works directly with emergency 911 dispatchers to greatly reduce the search timeframe for a rescue operation.

Contact SCCSAR directly to learn how to qualify for a free locator: 408-450-3100. You can also check out their website at to learn more about what they do and how you can get involved and support their operations. Again, this is one of many programs that operates in conjunction with county government and I hope that you find them as impressive as I do.

Guest columnist Mike Wasserman is the Santa Clara County supervisor representing District One, which includes Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill. His toll free number from South County is 408-683-4115 and e-mail is [email protected]

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