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  1. First, this isn't meant to come across as a finger-wagging post. It'll seem that way to some people, I suppose, but that's not the intention. I look at searches as broken down into two types when it comes to amateur and unorganized search efforts - hot and cold. Cold searches are ones where a person has been missing for 6+ months, professional efforts have been suspended, and there is no active search planned or ongoing. Hot searches are ones < 6 months old, and usually < 2 weeks old. Those often have ongoing efforts by law enforcement and SAR, may involve related criminal or civil investigations, and often have significant resources dedicated to them. As far as cold searches go, have fun and don't get lost/hurt. As far as hot searches go, please don't get in the way. If you have information, however thin, contact the LE agency overseeing the efforts and share what you know. If you have photos, videos, or other evidence of the missing subject, please present it as clearly and concisely to LE as possible. Unless you know an area intimately (hike/hunt there regularly, know the trails and terrain, etc.), please don't offer speculation unless asked. It's very distracting to be receiving facts and speculative information in the same sentence. Please don't go out and start looking, alone or with others, if you're not sworn LE/SAR. Even then, no sworn LE/SAR members would go out there and search without authorization up the chain of command. You'd be amazed at how much evidence is often destroyed by well-meaning parties out there looking for a lost subject. Most of the time footprints are obliterated, but sometimes personal effects are picked up and removed. Even if those are later handed over to LE, if you can't tell us EXACTLY where you found the item/evidence, it's condition at the time (wet, dry, torn, dirty, dusty, clean, inside out, etc.), you've just ruined what may have been a significant find. If you do find something, take a picture (geotagging is great), take GPS coordinates (lat/lon are fine, but UTM is king IMO), note the date, time, and circumstances (was it windy? did the item seem dry, despite a recent rain event?) I know people want to help, and I don't take that lightly. I also know that I've trained with my colleagues for countless hours , day and night, for years now, to properly conduct searches, handle evidence, direct teams and resources, and to generally carry out a proper search. When untrained people get in the way of a hot search, it causes problems. Often, folks are nice and understanding and immediately leave the area when we ask them to leave. The whole reason I'm part of SAR is because I want to do my small part for the community, and I know lots of people feel that way as well. Rarely (though it happens) people get belligerent and threatening. The last thing anyone on a SAR team wants to do mid-search is detain you and wait for a deputy to drag you away. That cuts into our search time and really screws up the folks in ops and plans. And, if I have to be the one to hike you back to CP and *then* hand you over to a deputy, things are going to be really unpleasant. In the least, you'll get charged with a misdemeanor, and if it's a search related to possible criminal activity, you're talking a felony (not my call, and in the end, you can deal with the DA and the judge). What's worse is when random people wander out to search, get hurt/lost and then become a second incident we need to deal with. Resources are already stretched thin, and yes, we'll help you, but now the primary objective is receiving less attention. That's a Very Bad Thing. It's bad enough when someone on a SAR team gets hurt and we have an IWI to deal with - that usually throws everything into (more) chaos. Re-reading this, I know it sounds elitist and harsh. SAR isn't an 'elite' bunch - we've got folks from all walks of life, young and old, dot-commers and contractors, retired Marines and overworked attorneys. The big thing that sets us apart is lots and lots and lots of constant training. If you really, really want to be involved, contact your local Sheriff's SAR unit and apply. If anyone has questions about SAR and what it's like, feel free to ask or send a PM. Teams can always use new volunteers, and skills are always in demand. While each SAR team is different in some ways, the generalities outweigh the distinctions.
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