MCSOSAR Orientation

A Message From Our Head Advisor

Congratulations! If you are reading this orientation page you have shown interest in a volunteer organization like none other in the world. This organization, started in 1944, and became completely dedicated to Search  & Rescue in 1961. It is youth-led with 14-19 year olds making up the majority of our team roster and is served by some of the most dedicated, team-oriented search and survival experts that you will ever meet. If you are an adult and have interest, we’re excited about that as well, as we do have several adult volunteers, but it’s important to highlight that in addition to being Multnomah County’s main first responder Search and Rescue unit, we are proud to have a focus on youth development and leadership.

If you are just interested in learning more about survival or navigational skills, which is something we do spend a lot of time on, this may not be for you. Why? Because our mission, this team, and the Search and Rescue certification is about so much more than that, and requires so much more of a time commitment. The rewards of going through this training, pushing yourself beyond what you might think is personally possible, and being part of Search and Rescue will forever change you, in a good way! I hear every year from our newly certified members how they feel exponentially more confident in almost every aspect of their life and decision making, how they truly understand how to be both successful team members as well as strong leaders. And most importantly, after going on searches and finding people lost or injured often in miserable conditions, they understand that they have truly made an impact on their community and very literally on many people’s lives.

Basic Training - At a Glance


MCSO SAR Basic Training is a comprehensive program designed to prepare new members for the challenges that they will face in the field. No experience with SAR, hiking, or camping is required. As a trainee, you will receive instruction and demonstrate proficiency in wilderness navigation & survival skills, search method theory, and first aid & CPR. You will also receive instruction on helicopter safety, legal issues, and crime scene awareness. After basic training, many of these certifications must be maintained through ongoing training. Some can be renewed by going on missions, whereas others will need to be maintained through continuing education every two to five years. 


Our training year begins in October and runs through June with various certifications and exams in May; it is purposefully scheduled during the winter months to give trainees experience working in the wet and cold conditions they could expect to encounter on many missions. Training may involve snow, ice, wind, rain and other unpleasant situations. Trainees are expected to understand how to prevent hypothermia, to be aware of the conditions around them, and to take care of themselves and their team. 

Inclement Weather

Training is rarely canceled due to weather. However, in extraordinary cases, training may be canceled or modified at the discretion of the Head Advisor and Training Team. To ensure that trainees are made aware of a training cancellation, team leaders will communicate this information via text at the cell number provided at registration as well as on slack. A canceled training weekend may or may not be made up, depending on scheduling and staffing availability. While safety is always the top priority, there is inherent risk in Search and Rescue. There is a good chance that you will be cold, wet, and miserable, but we will be your guides in learning how to ‘embrace the suck.’


Basic Training typically requires uncertified members to attend a minimum of six of the eight field outings, with most including overnight camping, along with  40+ hours of classroom and practical training. All courses and outings lead up to end of year exams and actual in-field skills certifications that are pass/fail, but with the opportunity to remediate if needed. 

Advanced Training

Basic Training prepares you to serve on missions that do not require technical skills or snow/avalanche hazards. Advanced training has the potential to be available in subsequent years after the initial certification year (e.g., rope rescues). 

Basic First Aid/CPR/AED Certification

Recruits must obtain a First Aid/CPR/AED certification (for example AHA or ARC) that includes a hands-on classroom portion during their training year.

Options include, but are not limited to:

  • American Heart Association (AHA)
  • American Red Cross (ARC)

We will provide team members with more information and options as the year progresses.

FEMA Independent Study

As part of the Oregon State requirements for certification, recruits are required to complete and submit certificates from the FEMA  Incident Command System (ICS) 100 & National Incident Management System (NIMS) 700 online classes. More information will be provided about these certifications during our in-class meetings.

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Membership Requirements

General Overview

  • MCSOSAR welcomes members ages 14 and up. 
  • A willingness to take direction from a youth leader.
  • For field personnel, be physically fit enough to perform assigned tasks. This means the ability to hike the trails commonly found in Multnomah County while carrying a 40lb backpack for 6+ hours. Field personnel often work off-trail, moving through thick brush and vegetation and uneven, steep terrain.
  • The ability to remain calm and exercise sound judgment in sometimes tense or stressful situations.
  • Complete required training and obtain required equipment
  • Pass a criminal background check.

Multnomah County SAR is proud to admit both youth and adult members. The minimum age requirement for this program is either age fourteen and an eighth grade graduate, or age fifteen. There is no maximum age limit. New members go through our full basic training program, regardless of age or past experience. All new members are subject to a background check (repeated every three years) by the Multnomah County Sheriff. 

The training fee covers the cost of a sighting compass, training materials, food and transportation provided during outings. The fee also covers your registration dues for the current calendar year, which allows you to complete the basic training course. The training fee of $200 is due prior to the second training outing. Subsequent dues are $80 per year (subject to change). 

There will be times during training and on missions where photographs or videos will be taken of  MCSOSAR members performing search and rescue activities. These photos or videos may be taken by other SAR volunteers, the news media, or the general public. By joining  MCSOSAR, it is implied that permission is given for these images to be distributed and used by whoever took them. This may include use in promotional materials, news reports and web pages on the Internet.


Over the years, we have found that both trainees and certified members are typically enthusiastic to go on missions. That is fantastic! However, what we have also found is that there is much less enthusiasm for supporting the logistics and operational side of Search and Rescue, which is understandable. Logistics and operations is absolutely critical to successful training and missions, and can mean anything from helping organize (or move) key supplies to new buildings/areas, cleaning, and various preparations that are necessary for missions to go off smoothly. This is why, in addition to the in-class and field requirements, we also require all members to volunteer at least once per SAR year when help is requested beyond post-mission clean-up.


Co-Ed and Adult/Youth Teams in MCSOSAR

We believe that the adult and youth members are vital to the organization, and as such are treated as equals both during training and on subsequent missions and social outings.  If you’re an adult, that means you will have youth as leaders of your team and various youth who will be instructing you on all aspects of search and rescue skills. Being taught by youths may be a new experience, and we should underscore the importance of showing them respect and treating all certified members as superiors when it comes to search and rescue operations. Sleeping arrangements during outings follow separation rules and are in accordance with MCSOSAR policy.

Training Policies

MCSOSAR recognizes the need to protect its members and to provide a safe, professional environment at all times. A majority of the training takes place at 3083 NE 170th Place, Portland, OR 97230.

All trainees are expected to demonstrate effective application of skills. If team members are not able to perform these critical skills during a mission, it can pose a significant safety risk. During training, cases where one team member is over assisting, or “carrying”, the other(s) may result in failing the course. In order to avoid these situations, close friends and family members will not be allowed to be teamed together.

MCSOSAR recruits and members are never required to participate in an environment that makes them uncomfortable. Team Leaders should be notified if you have safety or team composition concerns.

Class Size Limits

Every year, the MCSOSAR advisor team will assess the limit for uncertified members going through training, as we have to account for space limitations in our training facilities, logistical infrastructure, as well as ensuring that all trainees receive a high quality training experience both in class and out in the field. The asks of you, our basic trainees, are to RSVP in advance for each class and field training, and that you plan ahead in blocking your calendar for training nights and weekends. 

The planning, organization, and execution of our training program requires a significant time investment by our volunteers, and a donation-funded financial investment that is only partially offset by our membership dues. Its purpose is to prepare future Search & Rescue volunteers to be active participants in our organization. Again, if you are merely looking for navigation or wilderness survival training there are more appropriate places to take such courses. Please be respectful and reserve the space available on our course for those who are seeking to become active SAR volunteers.

Code of Conduct

Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue and its members proudly serve the communities of Multnomah County and the State of Oregon. Members are responsible for periodically reviewing our Code of Conduct

  • Oversight - MCSOSAR operates under the direction and control of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Members must observe all applicable MCSO operation protocols
  • Standard of Conduct - We are Multnomah County’s primary ground search and rescue resource and always strive to treat each other, those we help, and the organizations with whom we coordinate with respect, courtesy, and fairness.
  • Equal Opportunity and Harassment - Any type of discrimination, prejudice or harassment, including but not limited to that which is based on age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, race, color, creed, physical or mental handicap, and/or on any other basis protected by federal, state or local law, by or against any of its members, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Any member who believes they are the subject of such discrimination, prejudice or harassment should report their concerns to a member of the Advisory team.
  • Conflict of Interest - MCSOSAR members should generally avoid situations where they may be required to make decisions that would be, or could be perceived to be, influenced by a personal benefit or financial interest or a romantic or family relationship.
  • Safety - Search and rescue activities involve inherent risks. Members are responsible for ensuring their own safety as well as that of their team, the public, and the subject. It is each Member’s duty to report safety concerns to their team leadership. Any injuries that occur during mission or training activities, or while in transit to such, must be reported.
  • Drug-Free Environment - The use of illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking and vaping are prohibited during any MCSOSAR activity. Members should not respond to a mission if they are currently under the influence of any drug, including prescription drugs or over-the- counter medicine, which may cause drowsiness or otherwise impair their ability to safely participate.
  • Privacy and information security - MCSOSAR operates under many laws and regulations governing the distribution of information related to missions. When you participate in a mission, you are bound by the same restrictions. Mission information is always considered confidential, as we are entrusted with personally identifiable  information (PII) about subjects we are looking for, which may include health information, along with other information, in order to effectively participate in the mission. Oftentimes our missions may also be part of criminal investigations (evidence searches, missing person searches, etc.), which are subject to very strict MCSO rules.