Search and Rescue

‚ÄčThe Sheriff's Office coordinates Search And Rescue ("SAR") missions within the unincorporated areas of Kitsap County, Washington. At the request of local police agencies, searches are also coordinated within city limits. Mutual aid for our neighboring counties and national parks is also provided. Typical SAR Missions Searching for:

  • Missing children, disabled persons, or the elderly in suburban and rural locations.
  • Searching for hikers, hunters, and other missing persons in forestlands.
  • Assisting persons who are injured in forest areas not accessible by road.
  • Searching for missing aircraft and locating radio distress beacons used by aircraft and boats.
  • Searching for evidence of major crimes in outdoor settings.
  • Recovering victims of drowning and other marine emergencies.
  • Assisting with floods and other disasters.


The SAR program consists of six deputies, over 150 members of volunteer organizations, and support staff from the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management. A person interested in becoming trained as a search and rescue volunteer should contact the Department of Emergency Management at 1.360.307.5870 or click here.

Volunteer Organizations 

Explorer Search and Rescue "ESAR"

This is an organization comprised of teenage searchers and adult advisors. The primary focus is on general ground search techniques and building leadership skills of youth. They are the most active unit for searches within Kitsap County. The ESAR training program is recognized as beneficial for both teens and adults.
A specialized unit within ESAR is All Breeds Canine Search and Rescue (ABCSAR). As the name implies, all breeds of canines are accepted as long as they have the ability and desire to complete the mission. Due to the partnership with ESAR, ABCSAR is one of the only canine search groups that have youth handlers. ABCSAR members are required to complete the same training as all other ESAR Kitsap members in addition to canine training. Becoming a certified team takes hundreds of hours devoted to training and two types of search dogs are utilized, Trailing and Air Scent.

Olympic Mountain Rescue "OMR"

This organization focuses on rescue activities in mountainous terrain. Although they are based in Bremerton, Washington; they are most active in the Olympic National Park. It is not uncommon for the OMR members to also lend assistance in other areas of the state.

Underwater Search and Rescue Volunteers of Kitsap County "USRV"

USRV is an organization of volunteer scuba divers trained to perform underwater search and recovery missions. Like all the volunteer organizations, their members supply almost all of their own equipment.

Air Scent dogs

Air scent dogs are generally used in the wilderness and are trained to find any human in their assigned search area. Human scent can travel great distances, and the dogs are known to have led handlers more than 500 feet through dense underbrush to find a subject who would be impossible to see with the naked eye. The handler's role is to understand wind, weather and terrain, and put their dog where it has the best chance of picking up this "air scent." Air scent searching is hard physical work, as a dog and handler might cover miles of difficult terrain during an assignment.

Trailing Dogs

Trailing dogs follow the scent of one specific person, and are generally used in urban environments where many people are present. The dog will ignore the scent of other persons, and follow the trail of the desired subject. They can successfully follow trails that are 24 to 48 hours old, and some dogs have followed trails even older. Trailing dogs require a scent article from the person, usually clothing, that hasn't been touched by anyone else since it was worn. Trailing work is not as physically demanding as air scent, but is much more mentally taxing for the dog. They have to remember the scent of the person they're seeking and find that amongst all the other human (and other) scents in an urban environment.

Human Remains Detection Dogs

It's a sad fact of life that some people are alone and in remote places when they pass away. Their families are left wondering what happened to them, and how to provide a proper memorial service without the body. Human Remains Detection dogs, most commonly known as Cadaver Dogs, bring closure to families by finding the remains of their loved ones. Because they can locate blood and other decomposed body fluids, cadaver dogs also help police detectives locate the scenes of grisly crimes, or discarded evidence that might have been contaminated with blood. While not as physically demanding as air scent, or as mentally taxing as trailing, Human Remains Detection can be emotionally draining for the handlers. In turn, dogs pick up on their handlers' distress and appear to suffer as well. Dog handlers have long believed that any distress on their part "travels right down the leash" to the dog.

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