Search and Rescue techniques

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Scouts will take part in three different search and rescue techniques as used by the mountain rescue. This activity will take place outdoors in the dark.


Suitable outdoor area, Spot lamp torches and head torches for each Scout, whistles, GPS, map of area, some objects (e.g teddy in high vis vest) to be found. Walkie-talkies.


This can either be run all at once with the whole troop doing each activity, or as patrols with three leaders running the three activities simultaneously.

Activity one: Sweep search

Best carried out in an area of woodland, or dense shrubbery. A leader hides three objects prior to starting and the Scouts have to find these objects. They will do this by conducting a sweep search. The Scouts will form a straight line with regular spaces in between each body, and will sweep the search area using torches. Torches will need to be moved in a figure of eight motion to search both the ground and trees, and to cover the whole area. The line will progress forward at a steady pace keeping in formation until an object is discovered. The Scouts will then remain in line whilst the one with the GPS comes over and records the location of the object. The search then continues until all objects have been found.

An extra element can be added to this to make the activity more advanced. A casualty could be discovered and the Scouts can then practice first aid on the casualty, improvise a stretcher and extract.

Activity 2: Light and Sound search.

This search strategy is used by the New Zealand mountain rescue team and is particularly useful in finding walkers who have strayed from a path in low visibility conditions. For this activity some sort of path, preferably in a circuit is required. Firstly a leader will walk a few minutes ahead on the path and hide just off the path. The scouts are then split into pairs and each pair spaces themselves fifty paces apart along the path. The pair at the front is in control of the search so it is best to use the most mature scouts / PL's. Each pair will be equipped with whistles and torches. When ready to start the search the leading pair will blow three times on the whistle to signal the start of the search. They will then walk forward 100 paces. Each pair will also walk 100 paces and will stop when the leading pair blows the whistle again to signify the distance has been reached. Then all the Scouts will blow their whistles and flash their torches for 15 seconds, and then turn the torches off completely and stop blowing the whistles. This quiet, dark period then gives the lost walker (leader) a chance to blow their whistle / flash their torch / or shout for help. If no discovery is found after 30 seconds the leading pair will blow three blasts on the whistle again to start the movement and the process will repeat. Once found another leader / young leader / PL goes ahead to get lost. The lost person can let a few pairs go past first before being found so that each pair gets a turn of finding them.

Again this activity can be made more challenging by including a casualty and first aid scenario.

Activity 3: Race to the casualty.

A young leader goes off to get lost in the wilderness somewhere. Split the troop into two groups. Each group is given a walkie-talkie and a map. Once the young leader is lost he / she will radio and give each group their grid reference. The groups then race to that grid point, the group with the best navigation skills will win.


  • dark
  • first aid
  • mountain rescue
  • navigation
  • navigation race
  • night time
  • outdoors
  • race
  • rescue
  • search
  • search and rescue
  • team building

Badge Links

  • Emergency Aid - Accident
  • Emergency Aid - Airway
  • Emergency Aid - Dangers
  • Emergency Aid - Minor cuts etc.
  • Geocaching - Bearing
  • Geocaching - Current location
  • Geocaching - GPS accuracy
  • Geocaching - GPS benefits
  • Geocaching - GPS ownership
  • Geocaching - How GPS works
  • Geocaching - Waypoint
  • Geocaching - Waypoint accuracy