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Standards and Policies


  1. Amendments.



  1. Acronyms

  2. Definitions


Section 3 – Membership

  1.  General Membership Requirements

  2. Types of Membership





  1. Specific examples of prohibited conduct that may warrant disciplinary action include, but are not limited to:

  2. Additional general rules that apply to all members:


Section 6 - COMPLAINTS

  1. Grievances

  2. Complaint Procedure

  3. Complaint Resolution, Actions and Responsibilities



  1. Revocation or Cancellation of Membership

  2. Return of NWHSAR Property 

  3. Qualified Horses

  4. Appeal



  1. Tentative Calendar of Events and Tasks

  2. Meetings

  3. Training Coordinator Administrative Responsibilities

  4. Standing Committees



  1. Van / Trailer Committee

  2. Annual Inventory

  3. Qualifications for Van Drivers / Trailer Hauler

  4. Procedures for Van Drivers / Trailer Hauler





  1. Paging system

  2. Vehicles at Missions

  3. Documentation of Injury or Accident

  4. Procedure for Obtaining Training Number



  1. Unit Radios

  2. Personal Radios








Changes to these policies may be requested at a general membership meeting. The Executive Board will review suggested changes/amendments and send requested changes/amendments to the membership, 7 days in advance, via email, for review prior to next general meeting.  A Groupme and/or email message will be sent out notifying members of upcoming meeting with voting to take place.  Changes/amendments will be voted on at the next general meeting.  Active members who show up at that meeting are the ones that make up the quorum at that time.


Emergence exception vote would be by email or Groupme to ALL Active members. Subject would be sent via email/Groupme and members would “Reply All” with their vote.  Approving would be by majority vote.





  • CPR – Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

  • KCSARA – King County Search and Rescue Association

  • KCSO – King County Sheriff’s Office

  • NWHSAR – Northwest Horseback Search and Rescue

  • RCW – Revised Code of Washington

  • SAR – Search and Rescue

  • WAC – Washington Administrative Code

  • ICS – Incident Command System

  • NIMS – National Incident Management System


Definitions: Search and Rescue: The acts of searching for, rescuing, or recovering any person who becomes lost, injured or is killed while outdoors or as a result of a natural, technological, or human caused disaster including searches for downed aircraft and urban search and rescue.


Mounted Search & Rescue is a specialty team within search & rescue, using horses as search partners and for transportation to search for missing person and/or clues as directed by Sheriff.


Mission: means a distinct assignment of personnel and equipment to achieve a set of tasks related to an incident, emergency, evidence, disaster or search and rescue operation that occurs under the direction and control of a local authorized official.


Training Event: means a planned, non-emergency activity for the development, maintenance or upgrading of emergency worker skills (WAC 118-04-060 (11)

Mission Time: Includes a reasonable transit time to and from the mission.


Section 3 - MEMBERSHIP


General Membership Requirements apply to all NWHSAR membership types:

  1. Minimum age requirement is 14 for base support members and age 16 for field qualified members.  A legal guardian or another adult designated by the legal guardian shall accompany members under the age of 18.  Females under the age of 18 shall be accompanied by another female or legal guardian while in the field.  Minimum age for Novice members may be amended on an individual exception basis if approved by 100% vote of members in attendance at a monthly unit meeting provided all active members have received 10 days’ notice via email and page, and there is a meeting quorum as defined in the Bylaws.

    1. Underage applicants will meet with Board members and explain why they want to join and what they will bring to the unit.  The Board will vote on acceptance/decline of membership.

  2. Documentation Requirements

    1. All members will be subjected to a background check of criminal history and driving record performed by KCSO. All members shall provide a current copy of the following documents to the Training Director:

      • A Current and valid driver's and or vehicle operator's license issued by the State of Washington (Members without a valid driver’s license will be inactivated until a valid driver’s license is provided.)

      • A current and valid vehicle registration and license for any/all vehicles used for call out, responding to search missions, or attending NWHSAR activities, classes and training sessions.

      • A valid and current automobile liability insurance or other required vehicle insurance for members operating a motor vehicle. (Members without valid insurance will be inactivated until insurance is provided.)

      • A current copy of shot records for any qualified horse.

  3. Members shall keep the above documentation current with the Training Coordinator at all times.

  4. All members shall conform to King County Sheriff’s Orders, NWHSAR Bylaws, KCSARA Bylaws, WAC 118-04, RCW 38.52, and any additional core compliance training required timely complete any other required federal and/or state certifications, and all Standards of Conduct, Policies and Procedures as outlined in this document.



Types of Membership

  1. Support Members

    1. Non-SAR persons who have not taken the WAC required classes or have not completed qualifications for Active membership but who are needed to participate in training as subjects and other non-field helpers. Support members are not eligible or entitled to vote in any NWHSAR election, monthly unit meeting or matter.

    2. Support Membership Requirements:

    3. Support Members who will be used as subjects in field training must have a temporary registration issued by the SAR Coordinator per WAC 118-04-080 3 (A) (ii) and (B). Name, age and address of non-SAR persons must be submitted to the SAR Coordinator at least 10 days prior to training. The individual must read and sign a Waiver and Release, which shall be retained as a Unit document. (Appendix E)


  1. Novice Members

    • Individuals accepted by the Training Coordinator for training and qualification as a NWHSAR member and who have completed and returned all appropriate application forms and information. Novice members are not eligible or entitled to vote in any NWHSAR election, monthly unit meeting or any other matters. Novice members are not allowed to participate in or respond to search missions unless by special request by KCSO or by special exception by the Executive Board under the provisions of Paragraphs B (3) or (4). Novice members responding to a mission must be on a team with at least one field qualified member. Novice members may attend trainings or other NWHSAR functions and events as determined by the Executive Board.  Novice Members who are unable to complete field training may, as an alternative but not as a substitute for field training, opt to be trained for Base Support.

Novice Membership Requirements

  • Novice Members pursuing Field Qualification must meet the following prerequisites in addition to completing and passing all Novice Member training courses:

    1. Must be proficient trail riders prior to beginning Field Qualification training

    2. Must own or have access to a trained trail safe horse.

    3. Trainees must be self-sufficient with their own transportation to base camp including ownership of a horse trailer and towing vehicle, or ready access to same.

    4. Must meet all General Membership Requirements

Novice Member Field Qualification:

  1. Meet all General Membership Requirements

  2. Attend the first available SAR Academy

  3. Complete ALL of the WAC Compliance requirements and

  4. Complete any other required federal and/or state certifications

  5. Novice Member Training Courses

  6. Horse and Rider Evaluation

  7. Demonstrate fitness by leading horse one mile on level ground in fifteen minutes.

  8. Demonstrate ability to mount and dismount horse from both sides.

  9. Demonstrate control of horse during walk, trot, and lope in an open field.

  10. Horse will demonstrate ability to lead another horse and to be led by another horse.

  11. Rider/horse team will demonstrate ability to ride double (optional)

  12. Rider/horse team will demonstrate calm behavior by crossing non-natural objects such as tarps and/or a bridge.

  13. Rider/horse team will demonstrate smooth control during pole bending.

  14. Rider/horse team will demonstrate controlled backing through an obstacle.

  15. Rider/horse team will demonstrate walking over a series of log type obstacles such as railroad ties.

  16. Rider/horse team will demonstrate the ability to safely carry a 48-hour pack upon the horse’s back.

  17. Demonstrate the ability to load and unload his/her horse into a trailer.

  18. Demonstrate humane treatment of the horse at all times. The standard by which conduct or treatment will be measured is that which a reasonable person, informed and experienced in generally accepted equine management, would determine not to be cruel, abusive or inhuman


Active Membership of Member:

  1. Be Core Compliant and maintain compliance as dates expire. Note: each member is responsible to maintain his/her status and make arrangements to take necessary classes and tests required to remain current. Each member is responsible to ensure the accuracy of their training records and must provide the TUCs with copies of certificates and/or roster to verify attendance

  2. Have met all training requirements of NWHSAR, KCSARA, and the State of Washington WAC codes that apply (WAC 118-04-120)

  3. A “Field” qualified member must attend:

    • Unit Meetings: No fewer than four (4) unit meetings per year consisting of at least one (1) meeting per calendar quarter.

    • Training: Members must annually complete the required hours of recurrent training and every three (3) years must stay overnight in the field. These training activities shall include five (5) hours with your equine partner. Note: this training will be in addition and separate from any other Academy and/or other classroom trainings. Some training can be substituted for mission time (e.g overnight in the field can be completed if on an overnight mission).

    • Missions: The purpose for the existence of NWHSAR is to assist King County and any other Counties, when requested, to safely assist in the Search and Rescue of lost individuals, as well as other activities, deemed safe, and requested by the county/state authorities.

    • Members not participating in the SAR required amount of mission time shall be removed from the “Active Members” list. Foot search, evidence search, and other DEM covered missions may be considered as positive time for meeting this requirement.


Removing a Member from the “Active Member List:

  1. At the Board of Directors discretion and extenuating circumstances shall always be considered by the Board of Directors before removing a member from the “Active Member” list.

  2. A Non-compliant member shall be removed from the “Active Member” list, by the Board of Directors, immediately upon recognition of non-compliance to any of the afore listed discretions.

  3. Written notification, either by letter or email, of the change in “Active Status” will be sent to the individual.  That individual will have 30 days to appeal the decision in writing to the Board of Directors. If the individual does not appeal, after the 30 days has passed, the Secretary will notify KCSARA and the State of Washington of the change moving the individual from “Active” to “Inactive”.

  4. Decisions regarding “Active Member” status are at the Board of Directors discretion.

  5. An “Active Member” report will be provided to Operations Leaders and Team Leaders on a quarterly basis.

  6. Members who do not maintain “Active Status” membership shall not be eligible to vote on any issues or attend missions or trainings.


A Member who went on hiatus and lost “Active Status” may:

  1. Apply for membership turning in updated membership paperwork and vehicle registration.

  2. Attend unit meetings but will not have voting rights or be able to participate in missions until WAC Compliant.

  3. Attend social events

  4. Attend training necessary to regain “Active Member” status

  5. Participate in any other activity necessary to reestablish “Active Membership” status


Regaining “Active Status”

  1. A member placed on the “Inactive Status” list, upon correcting deficiencies may apply to the Board of Directors for reinstatement to “Active Status”

  2. It is understood that a member losing “Active Status” due to a lack of Mission Time is prevented from participating in Missions and is unable to correct this deficiency. In such an event the Board of Directors shall consider the members good faith appeal and reinstate the member to “Active Status” pending mission opportunities and the members “good-faith” pledge to participate in future missions.

  3. Upon reinstatement to “Active Status, the Secretary will notify KCSARA and the State of Washington to change the “Active/Inactive” status of the member.


Membership of Horses

  1. An “Active Horse” must participate in the required SAR mission number of hours (pending mission availability) and at least one training per year to remain on the active roster. Active horse membership may be reviewed for participation in unit events and is subject to the discretion of the Board of Directors.

  2. Once removed from the active roster the members’ horse must participate in a horse qualification before regaining “Active Horse” status.

  3. Any horse not on the active list may not participate in any mission or training activity.

  4. Any horse currently carried on the “Active Horse” list not meeting these requirements may be removed from the “Active Horse” list at the Board of Directors discretion and extenuating circumstances shall always be considered before removing a Horse from the "Active Horse” list.

  5. A Non-Active Horse may be removed from the “Active Horse” list by the Board of Directors, immediately upon recognition of non-compliance to any of the listed discretions.

  6. The member will be notified via letter/email of the Change of Status. The member will have 30 days to appeal in writing to the Board of Directors, but the horse will be put on a “Review” list for 6 months or until requirements are met or a Board of Directors decision is made.  If the horse does not meet the requirements within 6 months, the horse will be inactivated and will need to requalify.

  7. Once a horse’s status has changed the Secretary will notify KCSARA and the State of Washington to change the “Active/Inactive” status of the Horse in question.

  8. Decisions regarding “Active/Inactive Status” are at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

  9. Operations Leaders and Team Leaders will be given a report of active horses.

  10. Horses returning to membership after hiatus, the member will need to supply emergency worker application for animals with current shot records. The horse will need to go through a Senior qualification.


(ii) Search and Rescue Academy

WAC required training classes. Classes are free except for materials.

  • Incident Command System (ICS)

  • National Incident Management System (NIMS)

  • Legal Issues

  • Radio Communication

  • Land Navigation

  • GPS Operation

  • Crime Scene Identification & Management

  • Search Organization & Management

  • Helicopter Safety

  • SAR Techniques

  • Subject & Searcher First Aid

  • SAR Survival

  • Rescue Techniques

  • Searcher Safety


(iii) Wilderness Navigation/Map and Compass

Basic compass terms and use, basic map reading, demonstration of wilderness navigation ability through map reading and problem solving on foot in the field.


(iv) Course 1: Field Practice

Horseback Trail and Wilderness Navigation. Participants are given a series of trail and cross-country navigation problems to solve on horseback and on foot. Two-way radio use instruction. Demonstration of safe trail riding, overnight camping (will camp at base camp), survival skills and equipment. 34 hours.


(v) Course 2: Mock Search

Participants will search for mock lost and/or injured persons who will be planted in the wilderness.  Wilderness navigation, crime scene preservation, litter use, safe riding techniques, radio use, and transportation of mock injured persons to base camp will be demonstrated.  Novice members pursuing field qualification will camp overnight in the field with their horses. 34 hours.


(vi) Course 3: Field Qualification Test

Overnight mock search and rescue event, wilderness navigation and camping, demonstration of safe, organized search and possible mock emergency medical care and rescue of mock injured or ill person.  Novice members pursuing field qualification will camp overnight in the field with their horses. 34 hours.


  1. Extenuating Circumstances.

  2. If a first year Novice Member has successfully completed training up to or including part of Course 3, but is unable to complete Course 3, that Novice Member may return the following year to take Course 1, 2 and 3 a second time.

  3. If, due to extenuating circumstances during the second year, the Novice Member is unable to fully complete the requirements of Course 3, the Executive Board shall solicit input from all active Operations and Team Leaders to determine the suitability of the Novice Member to become field qualified.  Consideration will be given to the Novice Member’s cumulative training and demonstrated interest in NWHSAR. The Executive Board will vote, by secret ballot, on the Novice Member’s possible advancement. A decision on the Novice Member’s graduation to Field Qualified shall be made before graduation.  At the discretion of the Executive Board, and on the advice of Operations and Team Leaders, additional requirements or restrictions may be placed on the Novice Member’s membership status up to a 12-month period.


  1. Hardship Circumstances.

    • If a first year Novice Member has successfully completed training up to and including the overnight of Course 3 but is unable to successfully complete the last day of Course 3, or has arrived late for the commencement of Course 3, the Executive Board shall review the circumstances of the Novice Member’s lateness and/or inability to complete Course 3.  Before making a decision on the Novice Member’s suitability to advance to Field Member status, such decision being made by a majority vote of the Executive Board and by secret ballot, the Executive Board shall solicit the input of all active OLs, TLs, and all the senior shadows who viewed the Novice Member’s whole performance through Courses 1,2 and 3.  The Executive Board’s decision shall be made before graduation.

    • The provision of this paragraph will only be implemented in extreme circumstances and on a case-by-case basis.  A precedent will not be established by any decision made by the Executive Board under the provisions of this paragraph.



  1. Active Members

Active members must meet all General Membership Requirements, in addition to:

  • Carrying and/or displaying on his or her person their King County Emergency Worker ID cards whenever responding to a mission.

  • Ability to receive Groupme texts, email and/or general cell phone texts.

  • Maintaining the minimum Core Compliance classroom training interval requirements unless reduced by mission performance as listed below:

  • Wilderness Navigation – every three years *

  • SAR Techniques – every three years *

  • SAR Survival – every three years *

  • Basic Helicopter Safety – every 2 years

  • FACTS – every two years or per expiration of card (1st Aid, CPR, Blood Borne Pathogens)

  • Crime Scene – every three years **

*=Requirement is waived if member has logged 12 actual mission hours during prior 3 years.

**=Requirement is waived if member participates in the field at least one evidence search in the prior three years.

  • All member households will be required to contribute annual dues of $25.00 per year payable at horse qualifications in February unless they have participated in a promotional or fundraising event for a total of 8 hours in the prior fiscal year.

  • Time Requirements

  • Members must perform a minimum of sixteen (16) hours involvement in actual mission, training event, committee participation or performing duties as an Executive Board member within the calendar year defined as January 1 – December 31. A combination of the above is acceptable. Time spent taking WAC Core Compliance required academy classes does not count towards this requirement.


  1. Re-instatement of Active Membership

    • Individuals who have been changed to an Inactive Member status must comply with all Active Membership Requirements, with the exception of the 16-hour time requirement, and shall not attend missions.  The Inactive Member shall attend training but not as a TL or OL until that member meets all Active Membership Requirements as well as completing NWHSAR’s on-foot Map and Compass course.


  1. Base Support

    • An Active Member who is in compliance with Section 2.01 of the NWHSAR Bylaws, fulfilled all Base Support Membership Requirements and completed all training events at base instead of in the field.  Base Support members assist with operational tasks at base during training and on missions.  Base Support members will not participate in the field with exception of evidence searches and/or on-foot urban searches under the supervision of a SAR member from any KCSARA unit.


  1. Base Support Membership Requirements

    • Base Support members must meet all General and Active Membership Requirements in addition to training in: horse fundamentals, radio communications, and command vehicle equipment.

  2. Base Support Qualification

    • Novice Members pursuing Base Support Qualification must meet all General Membership Requirements, complete all WAC required academy classes including Wilderness Navigation, be present in base for Courses 1-3, Horse Fundamentals and Radio Communications and Command Vehicle Training. Courses 1-3 may be completed in part or full at base.

      1. Horse Fundamentals Training: Consist of feeding, tying, putting on and removing tack, and basic horse first aid.  These skills will be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Training Coordinator or designee.

      2. Radio Communications and Command Vehicle Training: will be trained in the use and operation of the base radio and radio transmission recording procedures during training and actual search missions and will also be trained in the operation of command vehicle communications systems and equipment.

  3. Base Support Responsibilities

    • Shall follow the reasonable instructions of the Operations Leader regarding base duties.

    • Shall assist the Operations Leader with effective radio communications during missions, and the accurate logging of transmissions.

    • Shall provide care for any NWHSAR horses in base camp whose owners are in the field, including the feeding, watering, exercising or tending to other needs and well-being of the horses.


  1. Field Qualified

A member who has completed all the General and Active Membership Requirements as well as successfully completing Courses 1-3.  Field Qualified members are allowed to participate in the field on missions.

Field Qualified Member Responsibilities:

  • Members cannot participate in a mission without an NWHSAR OL organizing and supervising unit participation. If no NWHSAR OL is available, the Unit will not participate in the mission. Evidence and urban searches are an exception to this policy.

  • Any member receiving an in-person request for assistance from a law enforcement agency or officer, SAR Coordinator, or Department of Emergency Management, or any authorized agent thereof, shall immediately contact an Operations Leader for review, coordination and dispatch.

  • Respond ONLY to NWHSAR OL to pages received from either NWHSAR OL or KCSO to advise if and when available to participate in search.


  1. Team Leader (TL)

An active Field Qualified member in charge of a team.  Team Leaders assist Operations Leaders in checking team readiness and equipment, serve as a communications contact between base operations and the team in the field and, in consultation with the team members, make decisions as leader of the team.

  1. Team Leader Qualification

An active Field Qualified member chosen by the Executive Board and Operations Leaders to serve as a Team Leader.  Team Leaders will be chosen based on their training and mission performance, field experience, communication skills, personnel interactions, and the ability to make sound decisions in a timely manner.

  1. Team Leader Responsibilities

Before being deployed into the field during search missions and trainings, each NWHSAR Team Leader is responsible for ensuring their team has a fully-functioning radio that can both send and receive communications with search base and should have a back-up battery pack before leaving search base and being sent into the field for a search mission or training.

Act as the main contact for their team coordinating the flow of information between the team and the OL.

Check with team members prior to leaving base to ensure they have the proper gear for the mission and should also be aware of any special medical conditions of the team members that may affect their health or safety in the field.

  1. Acting Team Leader

Any Field Qualified Member may be assigned as an Acting Team Leader by an OL if there are insufficient TLs available for the number of teams present.  This is a temporary assignment for that mission or event only.


  1.  Operations Leader (OL)

An active Field Qualified member who has completed Operations Leader (OL) training. OLs respond to mission callouts, organize teams for missions, coordinate the NWHSAR response out of base camp and are responsible for completing and appropriately distributing all pertinent paperwork.

  1. Operations Leader (OL) Candidate

    • An active Field Qualified member who has been in a Team Leader position for at least one year who is selected by a majority vote of the Executive Board based on the candidate’s demonstrated leadership, communications and decision making skills, and performance as a Team Leader. OL candidates will also have shown interest in higher search management levels by organizing recruiting, fundraising or training events and will have preferably taken additional training such as HAM certification or Search Management courses.

    • The prerequisite for an OL to have been a Team Leader may be amended by a majority vote of the Executive Board, on a case-by-case basis.  Before voting by secret ballot, the Executive Board shall solicit input from all past and present Executive Board Members, Ols and TLs, all of whom shall be active members.

  2. Operations Leader Training

    • OL candidates will perform as an OL, under the supervision of a senior OL, during Courses 1-3 and assist in classroom training sessions as required.

  3. Operations Leader Responsibilities

    • Respond to text messages/emails from a KCSO Deputy.

    • Send a Groupme text to membership letting the unit know that an OL has responded.

    • Gather information on the mission, directions to base, type of terrain, and number of NWHSAR teams needed.

    • Coordinate unit response: communicate number of horse teams responding, and estimated time of arrival at search base.

    • At base camp, participate in search planning, organizing and dispatching of horse teams to assigned search areas, and assign TLs or Acting TLs as necessary.

    • Perform on-going search area assessments.

    • Maintain a record of search area assignments, member participation, hours and mileage for that call out and, as time permits, a log of NWHSAR radio communications.

    • Debrief NWHSAR personnel and document comments/concerns.

    • A NWHSAR OL must be present at search base whenever NWHSAR members are in the field, with the exception of evidence and urban searches.

    • It is understood that if a NWHSAR OL cannot be present at an evidence or urban search, responding NWHSAR members will be incorporated into other units’ search teams. The NWHSAR OL coordinating unit participation in such a mission is responsible for contacting participants to log hours, mileage and details for publication of an after-action report.

    • In compliance with KCSO regulations and KCSARA Bylaws, OLs must submit a written “After Action” report and roster, via fax or email to the following entities:

      1. SAR Coordinator within 15 days of completion of mission or authorized training;

      2. NWHSAR Training Director;

      3. NWHSAR membership.

  4. Probationary Member

    • Member who has received disciplinary action resulting in restriction of certain privileges. The Executive Board shall maintain confidentiality on any matters under this paragraph.




  1. Search horse must pass all tests as defined in Horse and Rider evaluations.

  2. It is recommended that search horses have their shoes maintained, or the equivalent hoof protection, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

  3. All search horses shall be current on all shots.




  1. Specific examples of prohibited conduct that may warrant disciplinary action include, but are not limited to:

    • Violations of state or federal laws.

    • Actions or behavior in violation of NWHSAR standards of conduct, policies or procedures while wearing any NWHSAR or KCSARA logo or apparel, or during any NWHSAR-related event, such as a mission, call out, organizational activity, meeting or training session.

    • The willful and/or repeated failure to follow the rules, regulations, policies or procedures regarding mission call outs, or completing and submitting mission or call out reports.

    • Leaving a team during a mission or training resulting in a one-person team.

    • Additional general rules that apply to all members:

      1. Only one horse and rider shall cross a wilderness bridge at any one time unless there are extenuating circumstances.

      2. Only Qualified Search Horses are allowed on field training and search missions.

      3. No dogs allowed during training or on missions.

      4. Horses shall be tied or handled by a qualified NWHSAR handler at all times.

      5. Inhumane treatment of horses will not be tolerated, and no member shall be allowed on missions or training with a horse that appears to be sullen, dull, lethargic, emaciated, drawn or overly tired.

      6. No one-person team will be allowed to search on its own.

      7. Members shall not go on any SAR activity (except meetings) if off work due to injury or illness without a doctor’s note.

      8. Members shall not go on missions if they have had alcohol as specified in WAC 118-04 and RCW 38.52 or any medical prescription or drug that would render them impaired.

      9. All members must wear an orange safety vest for visibility during missions and training. Mission responders must have their SAR ID visible and on their person.

      10. All members of a team shall act as a unit.  If any member of a team is uncomfortable with a proposed action, then the team will refrain from taking that action.

      11. All members shall carry a 24-hour pack, as a minimum, when on a mission and in field training.

      12. All teams must carry at least one working radio and do radio checks before leaving base.

      13. Members are not permitted to carry a firearm unless certified through NWHSAR. Non-firearm qualified members must refrain from carrying firearms in SAR situations. It is understood, however, that there may be cases where a member has a firearm in his/her vehicle and is called out for a mission.  In this instance, the firearm is to be unloaded and stored in a safe and approved manner out of sight.  Short firearms (hand guns) shall be inside a locked compartment that is securely fastened within the vehicle.  The Operations Leader shall be notified that a firearm is so stowed.

      14. To promote safety at any mission or NWHSAR event, the following activities are prohibited:  bareback riding including riding with a bareback pad, and/or riding without a proper bridle, bosal or hackamore.

      15. No children or horses will be left, overnight, unattended at base camp.  Trainees and NWHSAR members who bring non-SAR adults and/or children, or uncertified horses to any NWHSAR training, without prior authorization of the Training Director will be sent home.

      16. Absolutely no sexual harassment or discrimination will be tolerated.

      17. Safety helmets are strongly encouraged for all riders.  Active and Novice Members under the age of 18 must supply and wear a helmet when riding on training or search missions.

      18. It is recommended that qualified horses be tacked up with halter and a lead rope in addition to bridle and reins.

      19. Members are required to sign in and out on the group roster at all meetings, training sessions and search missions.

      20. It is each member’s responsibility to keep track of the transit time and mileage to and from classes, training sessions and missions, and to report this on the appropriate group roster.


Section 6 - COMPLAINTS



A grievance is a complaint of a general nature which is not based on a specific rule or legal violation or upon a specific administrative decision or lack of decision.  The Executive Board may hear a written grievance at any time or, alternatively, through the Member at Large.

Complaint Procedure

  1. Any member of NWHSAR who feels that s/he is or has been the subject of prejudice, harassment or discrimination as previously defined and discussed in this policy, or who observes or is aware of such action, is encouraged to contact any member of the Executive Board.  The complainant shall decide if the issue is to be brought to the Executive Board’s attention.

  2. Any member can start disciplinary procedures against another member or qualified horse if he or she witnesses behavior which is inappropriate, unsafe, not in accordance with these Standards of Conduct, Policies and Procedures, NWHSAR or KCSARA Bylaws, the WAC or Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 38.52, or is illegal.

  3. Complaint Resolution, Actions and Responsibilities

  4. Unless in conflict with other provisions of the Bylaws, the following procedure shall serve as guidance for the Executive Board to investigate any allegation of member misconduct, whether or not it is associated with prejudice, harassment or discrimination:


Handling Complaints

When a complaint is brought to the attention of any Executive Board member, the President shall be notified within 24 hours.  The President shall then, within 48 hours of notification, advise the rest of the Executive Board of the issue at hand.  A special Executive Board meeting shall be scheduled and a resolution of the issue reached within 10 days of receipt of the complaint.  Minutes of the Executive Board’s decision shall include:  names of Executive Board members, OLs and TLs contacted, Executive Board members in attendance, and the decision reached.  The Secretary shall keep a copy of the minutes.




If the Board believes any type of sexual activity or harassment involving a minor has occurred, the matter shall be turned over to the King County Sheriff’s Special Operations Search and Rescue Coordinator, and notification shall be made to the applicable law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction.  Should the investigation of such a matter involve harassment involving a member of another Search and Rescue organization or harassment by a SAR member (while functioning in a SAR capacity and/or representing him/herself as a SAR member) of a non SAR individual, the matter shall be brought to the attention of the KCSARA chairperson and/or applicable Unit Leader as appropriate.  It shall also be brought to the attention of the applicable law enforcement agency.



The disciplinary procedures will be investigated by two members of the Executive Board acting as the investigating officer and may result in an Executive Board decision to impose any penalty the Executive Board deems appropriate.  In the event of a second substantiated incident within the Executive Board’s imposed penalty, the member or horse will be disqualified and will be required to turn in their emergency worker card and offered a buyback for their pager.



The Board shall document the allegations and the results of the investigation, along with any actions taken, in confidential minutes of any closed sessions held in regard to the incident.  All such records and associated documents (including investigator notes or records) shall be placed in a sealed envelope and stored in a locked file cabinet in the office of the SAR Coordinator.  Keys to the file cabinet shall be kept by the SAR Coordinator and the President.  The envelope shall be marked with “Closed Board Minutes regarding “<member name>”, dated and marked “CONFIDENTIAL”.  Any such sealed envelopes shall only be opened in a closed Executive Board session with a majority of the Executive Board present, unless otherwise specified by law.  No notes or other records shall be retained by the investigators once their investigation is complete.




Revocation or Cancellation of Membership

  1. The Executive Board may revoke or otherwise cancel an individual’s membership within NWHSAR.  This action usually occurs due to repeated or multiple infractions, or may be implemented for any single serious offense.  The Executive Board will notify the member in writing via certified mail of its determination to revoke membership.  The notice may also invite the member to attend and speak at an Executive Board meeting to discuss the Executive Board’s decision.

  2. Return of NWHSAR Property.

  3. Upon revocation of membership, an individual is required to return all NWHSAR property to any member of the Executive Board within 48 hours, or as otherwise instructed by the Executive Board.


Qualified Horses

  • Member horses are automatically put on one-year probation after the first episode of actions which endanger the rider or other horse, rider, member, subject, or any other person during training or missions.  In the event of another unsafe act during the probationary period, the horse will be automatically disqualified and will not be allowed on training or missions.


  • Disqualified or revoked members may appeal the Executive Board’s decision within 90 days in writing to the KCSO SAR Coordinator.  The KCSO SAR Coordinator has the option of accepting or declining to take action on the appeal.




Tentative Calendar of Events and Tasks


  • January: New member orientation *Executive Board Meeting: confirm training dates; finalize OL candidates, and other business

  • February: Horse and Rider Evaluations **Appointment of Standing Committees

  • March: Map and Compass training (on foot) **

  • April: Course 1 Wilderness Navigation (horseback) ** SAR Academy / **Executive Board Meeting

  • May: Course 2, Mock Search **SAR Conference

  • June: Course 3, Final Qualifications **Executive Board Meeting: discuss possible TL and OL candidates, and other business. Graduation, Presentation of new TLs

  • September: Post flyers for next year’s training Executive Board Meeting Appoint Bylaws and Election Committee members.

  • October: Announcement of Executive Board nominees and nominees from the floor.

  • November: Mail election ballots. Plan party for December

  • December: Election results announced. Finalize training dates for next year. Vote on Bylaw changes.


  * Attendance is NOT mandatory for Novice members.

** Attendance is mandatory for Novice members. For Map & Compass on foot, Novice members may also take WAC Class at SAR academy as alternative.



  • Business meetings of the general membership of NWHSAR will meet monthly on the second Thursday of each month.

  • Executive Board meetings shall be held in January, April, between Course 3 and graduation, and September at a time and location set by the Executive Board.

  • NWHSAR meetings will be held at 7:00 p.m. unless otherwise specified at a location announced at the prior meeting, and confirmed via pager and/or newsletter.

  • A reminder page announcing the scheduled meeting will be sent on the day of the meeting or within 48 hours prior to the meeting.

  • Any issue regarding membership status including promotion, hardship or extenuating circumstances, exceptions to the SOPs regarding membership status, etc., shall be determined after the Executive Board first obtains input and recommendations from all active OLs, TLs, and any senior spotters with direct involvement in the member’s training or in the circumstances which brings the member’s status to the Executive Board’s attention.

  • Any issue affecting a member shall be voted on by a secret ballot, without exception.

  • Any exceptions to the SOPs made by the Executive Board shall not establish a precedent for future decisions.

  • KCSARA General Meetings

  • All NWHSAR members are welcome to attend the KCSARA General Meeting but only delegates, as designated by NWHSAR President, may vote on KCSARA issues. Delegates shall be responsible for giving NWHSAR unit updates at the KCSARA meeting.


Training Coordinator Administrative Responsibilities:

  • Training Coordinator shall update and maintain the unit’s WAC training records at the King County Police Department Special Operations Office.

  • Shall maintain and update all records and certifications required for the unit’s Active Members and horses. See, also, Section 3.

  • Shall promptly notify the other members of the Executive Board, in writing, of newly qualified horses and members who are eligible for call out, and shall also notify the Executive Board, in writing, of training deficiencies in any particular area, expiration of required WAC certifications for NWHSAR members and any other situation which disqualifies a member or horse from taking part in missions and/or training exercises.

  • Will be responsible for new member processing, applications and orientation.

  • Will be responsible for submitting all unit training mission and scheduled meeting dates to KCSO as specified by the King County SAR Coordinator (typically in December).


Standing Committees

Committee chairpersons shall set annual goals for their committee and prepare a timeline for meeting these goals to be presented to the general membership at the February meeting.  The committee chair is required to report all committee business to the general membership on a monthly basis at regular or special meetings or through publication in the NWHSAR newsletter and shall provide a written status report to the Executive Board at end of the year.

Communications Committee:

  • Develop procedures to standardize communications.  Prepare and maintain an inventory of communications equipment.

Training Committee:

  • Assist the Training Director in developing training programs and support efforts to recruit and retain qualified individuals as members in NWHSAR.

Ways & Means Committee:

  • Chair fund raising, research and write grant requests for NWHSAR as requested by the President.  Coordinate membership staffing at recruiting events.

SAR Vehicle/Trailer Committee:

  • Assist the Vehicle/Trailer Coordinator in the procurement, outfitting and maintenance of a NWHSAR command vehicle and with inventory and procurement of equipment and supplies.




  1. Command vehicle committee is appointed by the NWHSAR President and is responsible for the following:

    • Maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle and/or trailer.

    • Keeping accurate fuel, service and other maintenance logs.

    • Reports to the general membership on a monthly basis regarding the status of the van.

    • Keeps the vehicle adequately stocked with supplies.

    • Keeps an accurate list of qualified van drivers.

    • Maintains an inventory list of all NWHSAR equipment contained within the van and the on-site storage facility.

  2. Annual Inventory

    • The Command Vehicle/Trailer Committee shall conduct a complete year-end inventory of NWHSAR property and send a report to the Treasurer. The committee shall note the make, model, serial number, accessories, spare parts, etc. of the property, and verify the name, address and telephone number(s) of the member to whom the items are issued. The Command Vehicle/Trailer Committee will submit all verified information to the general membership in the form of an annual report for the December membership meeting.

  3. Qualifications for Van Drivers

    • All vehicle/trailer drivers must take and pass the KCSO van driver’s class.  This class requires that members be active and pass a background and driving record check.

    • Vehicle drivers shall be familiar with the NWHSAR policies and operating procedures related to the NWHSAR van.

    • Procedures for Vehicle/Trailer Drivers:

      1. Accident Reporting

      2. If the NWHSAR van is involved in any accident during a mission or training, the following procedures should be followed:

        1. Check for injuries.

        2. Call 911 to report the accident. 

        3. Call the King County Sheriff’s Office at 206-296-3311, and ask for a supervisor. Advise the individual that you are “Northwest Horseback Search and Rescue” and your name, and have been involved in an accident. Request that an officer respond because a King County-plated vehicle is involved. Instruct the supervisor to contact the SAR duty officer or Deputy Kathleen Decker, to alert them of the accident.

        4. Write down any witnesses’ names, telephone numbers and addresses.

        5. Do not admit any fault or guilt.

        6. Notify the NWHSAR Operations Leader and President (or other board member if President is unavailable).

  4. Pre-operations Inspection

    • Prior to initially removing and driving the vehicle/trailer, read the previous Post Operation Log then complete a pre-operations inspection as outlined in the Appendix B checklist.

  5. Post-operations Inspection.

    • All drivers should complete a post-operations inspection upon returning the van, as outlined in the Appendix B checklist. If the vehicle fuel level is below ¾ then refuel the vehicle. The fuel card is in the glove box. If refueling is not possible, notify the Command Vehicle Committee and put a note in the Post Operation Log.

    • Trailer: Complete a post-operations inspection upon returning the trailer. Ensure the propane tanks are full.

  6. Vehicle/Trailer Maintenance Log Book

    • All drivers must complete the Vehicle/Trailer Maintenance log after each use. Note any problems with the vehicle/trailer. Entries must include a record of starting and ending mileage. A copy of the trip log may be attached to the Operation Leader’s mission log.

  7. Van Equipment and Supplies

    • Advise the Van Director of any supplies that need to be purchased and re-stocked in the van.




  1. The Executive Board and/or the NWHSAR committees may request the purchase of equipment and property, to be approved by the general membership.

  2. All equipment purchased with NWHSAR money becomes and remains the property of NWHSAR. No equipment belonging to NWHSAR may be disposed of or encumbered in any way by any person(s) without the consent of the organization members, following a vote wherein fifty-one percent (51%) shall be considered consent.

  3. NWHSAR accepts responsibility for the routine maintenance and repair (normal wear and tear only) of equipment owned by the organization, and which also may be in the custody or control of a member. NWHSAR members are responsible for any repairs or replacement costs of damaged or lost NWHSAR equipment that results from acts beyond normal or ordinary use occurring in a non-SAR situation.




  1. Text Response

    1. Texts Directed at Missions: Texts that are sent from the SAR Deputy, Coordinator or a Sheriff’s Deputy to unit Operations Leads will be responded to only by an OL.

    2. KCSO pages to other (non-NWHSAR) units:

      • Many NWHSAR members have ESAR or other SAR unit cap codes on their pager. Only OLs can respond to pages directed at other units and/or other counties.

  2. Vehicles at Missions

    1. All NWHSAR members shall park where directed by the search base coordinator or the NWHSAR Operations Leader.

    2. Keys of all vehicles should be properly identified with the member’s name and left with the Operations Leader prior to the member entering the field for a mission or training.

    3. Documentation of Injury or Accident

    4. In the event of injury or other incident occurring during a mission or training, all witnesses will provide a written statement detailing their observation of the incident. The report(s) are to be prepared immediately or as soon as circumstances permit, and submitted to the OL for inclusion with the mission log or training After Action report.

  3. Procedure for Obtaining Training Number

    1. The organizer of the proposed training or public relations/recruiting event must present a written plan and get approval of NWHSAR President or Vice President and the Training Director at least 21 days prior to event.  The plan should include the date, time and location of the event, goals to be accomplished, skills sets to be improved, and any other relevant information.  If the plan is approved, the Training Director will contact KCSO to request a training number.

    2. The KCSO SAR Coordinator will provide the Training Number to the NWHSAR President or Vice President and they will provide the training number to the organizer.

    3. With the training number, the organizer can proceed with detailed planning and paging NWHSAR members concerning the event.

    4. Event communication: A page must be sent to allow all members a chance to consider participating. E-mail may be used in addition to paged messages, however, it is not a substitute for paged messages.

    5. A non-SAR person or a NWHSAR “support” member who, with the Training Director’s approval, wishes to assist with any SAR training activities appropriate to their skill and experience shall be required, 10 days prior to the event, to complete an Emergency Worker Application for issuance of a temporary card. They shall also be required to sign a waiver.

    6. On a non-mandatory training ride, if a non-SAR member horse or rider is endangering NWHSAR members or horses, a TL or OL may direct the non-SAR rider to distance themselves from the NWHSAR group.  Any NWHSAR member who chooses to accompany the non-SAR rider may also separate from the group, provided they maintain visual or voice contact with the main group.

    7. No stallions shall participate in any SAR training activities or missions.

    8. In compliance with KCSO regulations and KCSARA Bylaws, the person coordinating the event must complete a written “After Action” report and roster and submit them to following entities:

      • SAR Coordinator within 15 days of completion of mission or authorized training

      • NWHSAR Training Director.

      • Active NWHSAR unit members.




Unit Radios

  1. The primary radio frequency for NWHSAR communications is F3, which should be used during search missions and trainings, unless otherwise instructed by an OL or Communications Chair.

  2. Radios used by NWHSAR members should have applicable frequencies pre-programmed into the unit.

  3. During search missions or trainings, the following identifiers shall be used during radio communications:

    • “HORSE-OL”: NWHSAR operations leader for the search mission/training

    • “HORSE TEAM ‘#’”: NWHSAR member team

    • “HORSE BASE”: NWHSAR Command Post

    • “SEARCH BASE”: KCSARA search base/communications van

  4. When on a training mission and using F3 or any other HAM radio frequency, the following identifier should be announced every 30 minutes: [FCC HAM License] + “NWHSAR Training”

  5. All unit radios shall be programmed by the Communication Chair or approved KCSARA members with only approved SAR, HAM, and weather frequencies.

  6. All radios that are lost, damaged or stolen shall be reported to Communication Chair immediately.

  7. No member of NWHSAR shall use KCSARA frequencies for any other purpose other than SAR missions and training activities.

  8. HAM frequencies may only be used by FCC licensed HAM operators unless being used for an emergency.




Personal Radios

  1. It is recommended that members consult with the Communications Chair prior to the purchase of personal radio equipment for Search and Rescue use to ensure that the correct radio is purchased to serve this purpose.

  2. A radio release agreement (Appendix C) must be read and signed if members wish to have the NWHSAR Communications Chair, or designee, program SAR frequencies into their personal radio.

  3. Members wishing to sell their personal radios to a non-SAR person must first have any SAR programming removed from the radio.

  4. Personal radio owners will be held responsible for all FCC, State and local laws governing proper radio protocol and conduct between 136-174 FM frequencies on their radio.

  5. NWHSAR shall not be held liable for any FCC violations committed by a member.



  1. At a search mission, all requests for information concerning the search shall be referred to the SAR Deputy or designated King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

  2. If the King County Sheriff’s Office requests that NWHSAR address the media specifically concerning horse operations, all statements will be made by the mission OL or another member specifically designated and authorized by the Operations Leader.

  3. Except as authorized above, no NWHSAR member shall make comments concerning a mission in progress at any time to any member of the media.

  4. Routine media requests for information concerning NWHSAR (aside from mission operations) are to be referred to the NWHSAR President.  The President may designate a public relations person to respond to the particular requests.





Talk directly to Deputy for precise directions and details.

  • Page members to determine number of NWHSAR responding and ETA in base.

  • Advise Deputy of number of teams available.

  • Arrange for backup paging support while on route to base or out of cell phone range.


  • Determine parking area for big rigs and coordinate with 4x4.

  • Revise or clarify directions to base as needed.

  • Start roster and mission log.

  • Get maps and briefing from SAR Duty Officer.

  • Plan utilization of horse resources with other unit OLs, determine search area for NWHSAR teams and prepare to brief NWHSAR teams.


  • Get emergency contact name / phone number from each member.

  • Ask members if they require any medications, have any allergies or restrictions due to illness or injury, or if have had alcohol or prescription drugs which might render them impaired.

  • Brief members on mission details including location of other units.

  • Organize teams, assign team identification, equip each team with at least one radio plus additional batteries and advise team of radio frequency to use.

  • If teams have a cell phone, record the number and provide the OL number as a backup for poor radio transmissions.

  • Distribute maps and identify search areas.

  • Confirm communications by having teams do radio check on leaving base.


  • Maintain mission log with radio traffic, incident reports, and comments.

  • Get position information from teams about every hour where practical.

  • Secure food and drinks for searchers when possible.


  • Debrief.

  • Ask each member about injury, damage or loss and document and report

  • Ask about lessons learned, near misses, etc.

  • Sign out.

  • Make copies or take photo of roster– leave originals with incident commander or designated deputy.

  • Remain at base until last NWHSAR member departs.

  • Follow each other home where practical.

  • Prepare After Action Report and distribute appropriately.

  • Appendix D - 24/48 Pack Requirement

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