Within Search and Rescue, a variety of acronyms will be encountered regularly. A number of the commonly used acronyms are listed on this page along with their corresponding definitions.

Basic Land Navigation

Basic Land Navigation, which includes being able to use maps, compasses, and GPS units, is a critical component to Search and Rescue. This publication from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group is a comprehensive document on the basics of land navigation. Study this document and train frequently to improve your land navigation.

Basic Search and Rescue Course
A basic search and rescue course developed by the National Park Service. This course offers an in-depth study of many of the topics deemed essential to search and rescue; it is highly recommended that those new and old look through it.

Ground Search and Rescue College

The Ground Search and Rescue College is our major means of certification. It is maintained through the Commonwealth of Virginia Search and Rescue program, which puts on several GSAR college events a year. At GSAR's we train in various aspects and specialties in the search and rescue field. Courses taught include: Field Team Member, Field Team Signcutter, Field Team Leader, and Management Team Member. In the future, courses may include: Rescue Team Member, Rescue Team Leader, and Management Team Leader.


There are a variety of knots that Search and Rescue members must learn to be affective in the field. The knots listed on this page are the basic FTM knots along with a number of other advanced knots and topics. Do you know all of your knots? To make things even more fun, try tying your knots while wearing leather gloves and wear a blind fold at the same time.


The National Incident Management System, a part of FEMA and developed by the DHS, was established as a structured framework used nationwide for both governmental and nongovermental agencies to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks at the local, state, and federal levels of government. It is a comprehensive, national approach to incident management that provides the template for incident management, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity. The five components of NIMS includes: preparedness, communications and information management, resource management, command and management, and ongoing management and maintenance.

The preparedness component consists of a five stage cycle that includes: planning, organizing and equipping, training, performing full scale exercises, evaluating the exercise and discussing how to improve results, and then restarting the cycle.

The communications and information management component consists of concepts that include: building a common operating picture; interoperability; reliability, scalability, and portability; and resiliency and redundancy.

The resource management component consists of typing, inventorying, organizing, and tracking standardized resources, which allows for effective sharing and integration of critical resources across jurisdictions. Also addressed is the issue of activating, dispatching, and deactivating those systems prior to, during, and after an incident.

The command and management component invokes a flexible, standardized incident management structure. This structure involves the Incident Command System (ICS), a Multi-Agency Coordination System, and procedures for providing information to the public.

The final component is ongoing management and maintenance, which ensures that the NIMS framework continues to be effective and up-to-date with the current demands presented.

For a more elaborate Overview of the NIMS System, please go through these slides provided by FEMA.


The training standards, which the Southwest Virginia Mountain Rescue Group adheres to, are established by the Virginia Search and Rescue Council. As a team, we hold the General Team Accreditation and hope to become a Management Group in the future as the team grows in size and experience.

Entry-level field training designed to introduce the field responder to standardized practices for a search and rescue response. Course content includes an overview of the state system, legal concerns, SAR operations, search strategy & tactics, personal preparedness, wilderness survival, land navigation, and basic wilderness rescue.

Designed as an introductory course focused on the fundamental principles of track and clue awareness, the Foundations for Awareness, Signcutting & Tracking (F.A.S.T.) course delves into the ancient arts of visual tracking. Course content includes the detection and interpretation of tracks in various ground covers, tracking team tactics, the appropriate deployment of tracking resources within the SAR environment, and much more. While this is not a certification course, it is an important step towards becoming certified as a SAR Tracker. Even if you don’t intend to become a tracker, this course is extremely beneficial for any searcher that wishes to improve his/her search skills.

Intermediate-level training in search team management, implementation of search tactics, supervision of team performance, proper use of semi-technical rescue equipment, and evacuation management.

The MTM Course is designed as the entry level introduction to the management process for Search and Rescue incidents. Students will be introduced to the make-up and processes involved in managing a search incident. Skills taught include initial actions, map segmenting, task writing, task briefing/de-briefing, support roles and many other skills. Additionally they will learn how all the skills mesh together into a process to accomplish the goals set forth by Incident Action Plan for the incident.

The MTL Course is designed as the Supervisory level course in the management process for Search and Rescue incidents. Students will be taught the processes involved in managing a search incident. Topics covered include the initial actions, the planning process, resource requisition and deployment, operational responsibilities, supervisory skills and roles when acting as a Search Mission Coordinator on smaller incidents. Additionally they will learn how to facilitate many processes including Consensus Planning, developing the Incident Action Plan, for the incident, interviewing and the demobilization process.

The Ten Essentials

Every Search and Rescue member is required to carry the Ten Essentials while in the field. Do you know what they are?

This image represents the progression of certificates that will be instantiated when the new COVSAR program is finished. Note: not all of these classes currently exist.