The Search and Rescue (SAR) organization embraces many people with diverse skills.  There are a number of teams within the group that specialize in different skills.  The descriptions below present some of the teams that are part of our organization.  If you have particiular interest in any of these areas, we encourage you to contact the team leaders to find out how to contribute your time and skills.  Please note: You do not have to be proficient or even interested in any particular skills to participate in SAR.


Hasty Team

The concept of a hasty team is an initial response team of two or more well trained, self-sufficient and highly mobile searchers and / or rescuers whose primary responsibility is to check those areas most likely to produce a subject first.

Optimum skills of a search hasty team include track and sign awareness, including clue and subject awareness.

Familiarity with local terrain and inherent dangers of the immediate areas are of advantage. Hasty Team members should be prepared to move relatively quickly and light, perhaps four to six hours in duration. In case of helicopter insertion, complete self-sufficiency in the outdoors for a period up to 24 hours is desirable – you might not make it out via helicopter as planned.

Hasty Team members should be able to mobilize to respond (be behind the wheel) to the staging area within 15 minutes.


Subterranean Team

Underground Rescue: A whole new set of rules apply. This is a very dangerous and demanding rescue scenario that although is rare in La Plata County, it can and does happen. Most think of an underground rescue occurring in one of the several deserted mines located in our area. Fortunately most mines are now sealed-off. A few remain open and always lend to the possibility of an injury requiring immediate help to an unfortunate explorer. Mine rescue is governed by the State of Colorado and is normally performed by highly trained mine-rescue specialists located in the Denver Metro area. For a mission in our area, it would take several hours, at best, for the Denver-based rescue team to arrive. Under the direction and authorization the La Plata County Sheriff, Search and Rescue can be enabled to provide timely help for an underground rescue.In addition to mines, our area offers two natural caves begging to be explored. While mines and caves are similar in that they are both underground, many differences exist. While concern for a cave-in is rare in a natural cave, it is much more difficult to travel and maneuver in a cave. This problem is exacerbated when dealing with non-ambulatory patient. In many caves, it is very easy to become disoriented and lost. One of our local caves has very low oxygen content.

The best advice La Plata County Search and Rescue can offer: Stay out of deserted mines. Area mines are being seal off for a good reason: They are dangerous. They are unstable. They have bad air. “Stay Safe – Stay Out!”


Winter Response Team

The San Juan Mountains have one of the most treacherous snow packs in the world, so the fact that we live, work, and play in the San Juans demands that as a search and rescue (SAR) organization we must be prepared. This means that we must be skilled, and knowledgeable about safe, efficient over the snow travel and winter rescue techniquesOne of the important components of our winter response capability is our “ski team”. This is a group of individuals who, in addition to all the ‘normal’ SAR skill sets, have avalanche training, are skilled backcountry skiers, and posses other winter rescue and evacuation skills. This team trains together during the winter and stands ready all winter and spring to go to the aid of lost or injured people in cold and snowy situations.


Technical Ropes Team

The technical ropes team supports SAR when someone needs help in climbing situations. High-angle rescue techniques are important in safely accessing, treating, and extracting someone in steep-terrain environments. The rigging team members participate in numerous training opportunities throughout the year.


Canine Team

At the present time we have a waiting list to join the LPCSAR K-9 team, and we will be happy to put your name on the list. In the interim, we hope that the following information will help get you started.

Our team trains three days a week which translates into approximately 750 hours a year in training. Our scheduled trainings are on Tuesday afternoon and evening, and all day Friday and Saturday.

Here are some websites to check out which may be helpful:

These sites will give you an idea of the time commitment, testing standards, and handler requirements. As you may know, it takes between 1,000 – 1,500 hours of training to field a dog/handler unit in a single discipline and longer if you cross train in multiple disciplines. This training generally takes 2 to 3 years to complete prior to the testing process. Our team uses standards developed by the National Search Dog Alliance.

In terms of reading material the following books are good starting points:

“Scent and the Scenting Dog” – Syrotuck
“Scent – Training to Track” – Pearsall
“Search and Rescue Dogs”-American Rescue Dog Assn
“Ready” – Bulanda
“Practical Scent Dog training” – Button

We recommend taking a comprehensive seminar. Our team uses High Country K-9 in Montana as a training consultant and evaluator. The website is There are also other groups around the country which offer seminars.

The Canine Team is a volunteer canine search and rescue team. The team is made up of dogs and handlers who assist in locating lost persons on wilderness search and rescue missions. The dogs are trained and handled by their owners. It generally requires over one thousand hours of consistent training for a dog/handler unit to become operational. This training process usually takes from two to three years. Handlers must also become skilled in navigation, scent theory, search strategy, and canine first aid.
The dog breeds most suitable for SAR work are the herding, working, and sporting breeds. SAR dogs must have the desire to work and the endurance to search for hours in mountainous terrain, often in extreme weather conditions. SAR dogs should be confident, obedient, agile, and outgoing.


Swiftwater Team

With high potential of whitewater related incidents happening on any of the many creeks and rivers in the area, the Swiftwater Rescue Team is prepared to respond. The team is made up of many formally trained individuals with solid experience in whitewater travel and swiftwater rescue. We train for likely scenarios that could happen in La Plata County and would potentially involve inflow access, stabilization, and transport issues. We focus on performing timely, efficient, and effective rescues of individuals or groups using the safest and most current rescue techniques.


Horse Team

LPCSAR does not maintain an organized equestrian team, however, when resources are needed, LPCSAR or the Office of Emergency Management have access to the,  LaPlata County Mounted Patrol (LPCMP), based in Durango.  For further information on the LPCMP, feel free to visit them at:   or  www.FACEBOOK.COM/La-Plata-County-Mounted-Patrol/124446657634959


Mountain Bike Team

Mountain bikes provide a mode of transportation in which ground may be covered rapidly to quickly search a large areas for lost hikers.  If you are into mountain biking, LPCSAR can utilize your skills.