Keith's Search and Rescue/Outdoor Page

Search and Rescue/Disaster Gear List

My SAR/Disaster Gear list has pretty much everything I carry in my truck and packs and duffels and the likefor SAR and disaster operations. Of interest mostly to those who, like me, are SAR of disaster people who aspire to be OCD (obsessive-compulsive) but never quite make it. I update it all the time, and as I write this (September 2011) I am on deployment with the NDMS and have revised it three times in the last week. Addendum, after getting back: revised three more times since getting back. Seems I revise it lot right around the time of a disaster deployment or big search and rescue operation. Makes sense, I guess.

ics-i-6d.gif (6026 bytes)We are currently toiling to make a new and much better SAR forms packet for Pennsylvania -- but the work is going slowly. As things progress, I will post updated information here.  Of course, we welcome suggestion for improvement of the packet.  Here are some of the documents for this work-in-progress:

MiOx Water Disinfection Device

I've recently become enamored of a new water purification device, and prepared an article that's been published in a variety of newsletters.

Incident Command System ICS I-100 Module 1 Orientation

I had laboriously scanned and cleaned up the ICS I-100 Orientation to ICS and posted on the Web in PDF format.  Well, finally, you can now download them all from the official ICS document page and browse to your heart's content.

Poison Ivy Patient Information

I've never been happy with the available poison ivy information on the web or in other patient handouts.  So a couple of years ago, I made up my own.  Couldn't get my laptop to print today, so uploaded this here for a patient.  But it's of pretty generic interest.  Please feel free to use as you wish.


Clothing Materials Table:  

I've always been frustrated by the many manufacturer claims about how great their new clothing materials are – how warm-when-wet, how vapor-permeable, how wicking, how much better than anything else you can buy from someone else.  Especially since, to some degree, these new materials are indeed better, in some cases much better, than what we've had before.  I have searched the web for objective comparison to no avail.  And indeed, a while ago (August 12, 2000) I was in a lecture by a colleague who is probably the world's leading expert on clothing materials, Murray Hamlet, DVM, of the U.S. Army's Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.  (He's also a world-class expert and teacher on topics including socks, boots, hypothermia, frostbite, heatstroke, and the use of yaks in warfare, but this particular lecture was about clothing materials.)  He was able to give us some good background on clothing materials, some of which I jotted down.  But as he said, there is really no good comparison or testing of many of manufacturer's claims.

So, I decided to start and post my own table of outdoor clothing materials. Since August 2000, I've had lots of I first posted it in comments and suggestions, which are reflected in the table and attendant text and footnotes.

Remember, these are personal impressions.  If you disagree in major ways or think I made a mistake, email me – I may or may not believe you, but if you have a good comment, I'll include it.

Hope that you find this useful, or at least entertaining! 

Every Group of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference has a large OpsKit with maps, forms, and the various paraphernalia used to run a SAR Operation. However, most ASRC members who are involved in running SAR operations carry some sort of a mini-OpsKit in their cars, just in case they're the first one to the scene.  I finally wrote up what I keep in mine, just to make it easier to restock it after an operation.  Click on the icon above to see the Adobe Acrobat version, or here to download the MS Word 2000 version. Current version is 1.2, dated 8/16/99.  Comments and suggestions are welcome.

The Art of War and the Practical Search Operations Class results in "The Art of Search"

Click here to read it on-line, or here for a MS Word 7 version.

I just (4/27/98) took the first half of a very good "Practical Search Operations" class – a follow-on to the MSO or MSF class – by Dave Carter and Mark Eggeman of Search and Rescue Training Associates of Virginia (also members of the ASRC’s Tidewater SAR Group). This is a great course, sort of "everything about search you wanted to know, but never learned from MSO." The course is specific to Virginia but we’re trying to adapt it to Pennsylvania. It’s sort of a dogmatic course, but consciously so – the point is not that this is not the only good way to do a search, but it is a very good way to run it, and there are advantages to having a single "book way" to run the nitty-gritty details of the search.

As I was taking notes, I couldn’t help noting the parallel with Sun Tzu’s Art of War – dogmatic rules encapsulating expert experience. Now Sun Tzu also has some generic information on leadership, as well as specific tactical information – some of which seems to apply pretty well if you substitute "search" for "war."

I happened to have an copy of the Art of War handy. So I thought I’d take some of the PSO rules, mix them up with a free translation of the relevant part of The Art of War, and what resulted: a pastiche of Sun Tzu and SARTA material. Since, during the time The Art of War was written, it was common to take the teachings of a wise master, add one’s own ideas, and attribute to the master, I’m in good company in what I did, I guess <g>.

As this is an act of art, not science or technical writing, I will be happy to accept suggestions for improvement (, and will post updates on my Web site ( but reserve the right to scream "no, no, NO!", drum my heels on the floor, and refuse to make changes without any other justification.

My apologies to both Sun Tzu and SARTA, and also my apologies for maybe starting a new religion. Hope you find it at least amusing. Click here to read it on-line, or here for a MS Word 7 version.

"Latitude and Longitude Measuring Stick"

This is something Art Dodds, of ASRC/MRA/NCRC/FAA fame, sent me. It is a clear plastic ruler designed for measuring latitude and longitude on a topo or sectional map. There is no copyright (I think the company gives them away as freebies) so I scanned the stick (571,431 bytes) and the instructions (197,443 bytes). I've included all their advertising so I doubt they'll mind <g>. If you print the "stick" on a laser transparency, you can cut it out, fold it over and keep it in your pocket in the field. You'll need to have lat/long lines drawn on your topo maps, but that shouldn't be too hard to do ahead of time.

The Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference

Back in the 70's, Rita Cloutier, Ray Cole, Gene Harrison, and I formed the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference. The ASRC has done well since then, and has grown far beyond what we (or at least I) imagined. Here is a general blurb about the ASRC, and a link to some ASRC and other Search and Rescue pages:

The Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference (ASRC) is a volunteer search and rescue organization. ASRC missions include wilderness search for lost persons and the rescue of injured persons from hiking, hunting, or other accidents. The ASRC also conducts special technical operations including mountain and cliff rescue. With over 400 active members, the ASRC is one of the largest (if not THE largest) organization devoted solely to wilderness and backcountry search and rescue. There are ASRC Groups in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and Delaware. Though the ASRC is divided into several different Groups, all groups share the ASRC Articles of Incorporation, the ASRC Bylaws, the ASRC Training Standards, and the ASRC Uniform. Some ASRC Groups also are part of the Appalachian Region of the Mountain Rescue Association. The ASRC is affiliated with the Eastern Region of the National Cave Rescue Commission (the organizations have a mutual aid agreement) and the National Association for Search and Rescue.

The local group in the area where I now live is the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group.

Here is a description of the ASRC uniform, based on the official votes at meetings of the ASRC General Membership and Board of Directors. There is also an Adobe Acrobat version.  For those who are emergency physicians, there are emergency physician patches for the right shoulder. 

A short treatise on the ASRC Grid System in Adobe Acrobat form is available by clicking on the picture of the gridded map or pdficonsmall.gif (153 bytes) here. At 800K it's a bit big, but it has a couple of big maps in it. Because I did it with Acrobat Distiller rather than Acrobat PDF writer (to make the pictures look better), the fonts are a bit fuzzy on the screen but seem to print OK.

GRIDTEMP.GIF (9542 bytes)Here also is an Adobe Acrobat page pdficonsmall.gif (153 bytes) to print yourself a bunch of these little templates to carry in the field when using the ASRC Grid System. Just photocopy or print onto a transparency and then cut into little squares. Here'ss a .JPG version if you're in a hurry; not quite as crisp but you can click on the link and then hit your browser's "Print" button.

maptool.gif (54999 bytes)

If you want something fancier, check the link to John Carnes' "1:24,000 MapTools" that you can download and print on a transparency master.  Much classier than that I made. Tough the ones I made are OK and usable, John's are clearly the high-class version.  Impress your SAR friends by carrying one in your map case.

The ASRC has a fairly rigorous set of standards, perhaps the most stringent of any US. SAR team, and a rigorous testing program.

The ASRC is remarkable in that it can keep as close a coordination as it does between nine different Groups spread over four states. Considering the fact that many of the ASRC's members are very independent-minded outdoor types, this is even more remarkable. Click on the front page of the bylaws to the left orhere to view or download an Adobe PDF file of the ASRC Bylaws. This is the newest version of the ASRC Bylaws..

There is a very close relationship between the ASRC and the Wilderness EMS Institute -- for one, WEMSI is co-sponsored by the ASRC. For another, medical direction for the ASRC is handled by WEMSI for Pennsylvania.Here is the ASRC Medical Policy for Pennsylvania, in Adobe Acrobat form.

The Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council

I was involved in founding the Virginia and Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Councils. State SAR Councils have done a lot to advance search and rescue in the Mid-Atlantic area. Click on the icon to the left and above for the PSARC website.

Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council: Minutes Archive

Click on the icon for an archive of the PSARC minutes, back to the earliest times.

PSARC Forms Revision process:

PSARC SAR FormsEmbarrassing. Long ago, I created a set of SAR-specific forms. It was a draft to be discussed by the member teams of PSARC. But it was adopted, with all its flaws, as the official PSARC statewide SAR forms. They have also been used as good examples nationwide. Here they are in their original form. They are in Adobe Acrobat .PDF form, which can be read by the Adobe Acrobat Reader (currently at version 4.0) or the Acrobat Plugin for Netscape/Internet Explorer. The file is a bit big at 600K. Click on the picture of the Task Assignment Form (an ASRC invention that has spread worldwide, I'm glad to say) or here to view or download.

One problem that occurs to all volunteer SAR organizations (and similar organizations) eventually -- a request for formal discipline of a member. But such disciplinary proceedings must be carried out with Constitutional protections of due process in mind. Here is some material I prepared for the Pennsylvania SAR Council -- this is the draft version with footnotes and comments that may be of some use to you. See also the ER-NCRC policy, below. Click on the picture of the fine print or pdficonsmall.gif (153 bytes) here to view or download an Adobe Acrobat version of this document.

The National Cave Rescue Commission

Cave rescue is a lot of fun (well, the training, anyway, and supposing you don't mind mud or hard work). Click here or on the icon to the left to see some pictures of an actual cave rescue from the summer of 1993 (best part was I got off work to go caving).

5 cave rescue.jpg (83877 bytes) The Eastern Region NCRC summer weeklong cave rescue training class is the world's premier place for cave rescue training. There is also a national weeklong course that rotates around the country.  (The picture above was taken at the summer 2000 weeklong, both eastern regional and national combined, by Anmar Mirza.) You can find out more about cave rescue by checking the Eastern Region, National Cave Rescue Commission Web site:

As with PSARC, Eastern Region NCRC also found a need for a due process policy. It's different enough due to the differences in PSARC and NCRC structure to take a look at. Click on the picture of the fine print or pdficonsmall.gif (153 bytes) here to view or download an Adobe Acrobat version of this document. The version here is a penultimate draft, but I've posted it here as the footnotes and options are educational.  The final version will be found as part of the ER-NCRC Policy and Procedure Manual at the ER-NCRC Web site.

The Mountain Rescue Association

There are many kinds of wilderness rescue, but the kind that I like the best is mountain rescue.

Mountain rescue can also be fun; though operations tend to occur at 3 AM in the freezing rain, they also occur in nice weather. At least it's an excuse to get away from the computer and into the outdoors. I used to serve as Chair of the Eastern (now Appalachian) Region of the Mountain Rescue Association (, and still train and work with the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group here in Pittsburgh. AMRG is both a local Group of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference and a certified MRA team. You can email Heather Houlahan <>, who is the current Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group Training Officer, if you're interested in joining or for other information about AMRG here in the Pittsburgh area..


I'm also active (well, I used to be, and will be again) with ASTM Committee F-32 on Search and Rescue, which you can reach at:


Betty and I are active with many wilderness, conservation and related organizations, and I encourage the rest of you to do so, to. Examples include the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the National Speleological Society (caving). Indeed, the map fragment that you see in the background is a PATC map of the "Hazel Country" section of Shenandoah National Park, an area in which I've spent many pleasant hours, some of which were devoted to the production of an earlier version of this map.

Betty and I both work with our local borough to maintain trails in a small nature reserve near our house. We both like open space in cities, and like to keep the areas primitive except for foot trails for walking, observing nature, and running (not for mountain-biking, that belongs in other places that can take the abuse). We try to maintain the trails to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's high volunteer standards.

You may click on the icon for

a JPG map of the Green Tree Nature Center Trail Map (78K) or,

click pdficonsmall.gif (153 bytes) here for an Adobe Acrobat .PDF file of the Green Tree Nature Center Trail Map (380K)

The PDF file is an experiment, first just to see if one can do it with Acrobat (yes) and to see what it looked like. Interestingly, it kept the trails and such as vector graphics, and kept the (touched up) USGS map scan bitmap background as a bitmap. I suppose it might be easier to print with Acrobat, or look better on your printer, than the JPG file. Also, the little bitmap of the trees and mountain and blazes at the bottom center shows up right in the PDF file whereas the colors in the JPG file are something from Andy Warhol, why I have no idea.

I searched the web for a nice "Pack it in, Pack it out" graphic I could download and print to post at the Nature Center. Though I found the very nice Leave No Trace Web site, and stole a couple of their graphics (I don't think they'll mind), I couldn't find exactly what I wanted. So I used a couple of graphics from the LNT and made up my own sign, please feel free to edit and use it yourself. I also asked Mike Yee, a graphically-talented medic with Pittsburgh EMS and our local mountain rescue group, to make up a graphic specifically for this use, and I'll post it here when I can finally persuade him to do it.


Hiking area:  Wasatch Mountains, Utah

Great Sand Dunes National Monument, CO

Hiking area: Appalachian Trail, Northern Virginia, Blackburn Trail Center.

If you haven't seen them already, also look at the page on Ireland and the one on Wales.

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