About The Team
Video Overview (2:39 mins)
The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team (CoCoSAR) consists of about 200 professionally trained searchers under the direction of Contra Costa County Sheriff Emergency Services Division. We are all unpaid volunteers with extensive, specialized search and rescue training provided by the team.
Our mission is to provide highly trained search and rescue resources to the citizens of Contra Costa County and other counties, according to the State of California Office of Emergency Services Mutual Aid Plan. As such, we operate primarily in Contra Costa County but can be called to assist with searches throughout the State of California. Additionally, we provide medical and educational support and evidence search assistance in county, as needed, at the request of the Sheriff. The team is trained to provide disaster support for the Office of Emergency Services in the event of an earthquake, fire, flood or other widespread emergency.
CoCoSAR is on call and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in almost any conditions. (It is common for callouts to come late at night or in inclement weather and they rarely come when it is convenient.) During any given week, we respond to callouts that may involve:
- An urban area search for a dementia or Alzheimer’s walk-away or missing/runaway child
- A wilderness search for a missing hiker, climber or hunter
- A technical rope rescue to extricate an injured subject
- A downed aircraft search, rescue and recovery
- An evidence search in support of law enforcement
- Medical support for various foot and bicycle races or special events
- Medical support for a mass-casualty incident
- Emergency support for natural disasters, such as earthquakes or wildfires (such as the 2013
Morgan Fire on Mt. Diablo.)
A Brief History
Over the years, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team has evolved from a small group of eager citizen volunteers from a local jeep club to a full-scale, nearly 200-member team of well-trained professional searchers.
The fledgling group of off-roaders, equestrians and Reserve deputies that formed a loosely organized search team in the 1960s was disbanded later that decade. However, in 1974, with the belief that there was a real need for a volunteer team to assist the Office of the Sheriff in finding lost and injured people, a new search and rescue team – soon to become known as CoCoSAR – officially began.
While the science and business of search and rescue has drastically evolved from the early days, some things have not changed; the team still prides itself in its professionalism and takes the job seriously. Management and technology improvements (and hard-earned experience) have increased the professionalism and team capabilities to new heights.
But one thing remains true: It is the SAR volunteer that ensures the team’s success.
Read more about our history here.
Training and Specialty Resources
CoCoSAR is one of the largest and best-trained teams in California. All of our team members are required to be competent ground searchers (commonly known as “ground pounders”), but many pursue the additional training and expertise to provide specialized resources often needed on searches: urban search and rescue (US&R), canines, metal detecting, tracking, bicycles, mountain rescue (including technical rope and snow and ice) and Flight Rescue Technician. We may be called to search on Mt. Diablo or city neighborhoods in Contra Costa County, or at 11,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains, so we have highly trained searchers who can operate in any environment, in any weather, at any time of the year.
Young people, (aged 14-18), who are accepted onto the team become SAR Cadets, and train and search alongside our adult team members.
CoCoSAR isn’t just about ground pounding. There are an abundance of roles, tasks and equipment required to keep things running smoothly and ensure that the team is “mission ready.” After completing the required trainings and becoming experienced “ground pounders,” team members can choose to pursue additional training for specific roles including:
- Search management and lost person behavior
- Intelligence and investigations
- Command post operations (search planning, operations, communications)
- Logistics (equipment organization, staging and rehab)
- Information technology (search maps, GPS downloads, network management)
- Medical support
- Communications (radio operations)
- Team administration (human resources, finance, etc.)
- Resource management
Many team members find that their project management, administration, technology or leadership skills from their “day jobs” can be put to good use on the team. Team members have ample opportunities to find an area in which to use their expertise or to learn new skills, regardless of their professional background. All of these roles require common sense, sound judgment and an ability to work well with others.