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1.      Review

Once a year a committee comprised of unit members will review unit documents including bylaws, policies and all documents necessary for the day-to-day coordination of the unit's business. Any member of the unit may access all unit public records.

2.      Membership

2.1.  Eligibility and Application

Any member of the unit may give application forms to interested volunteers. The application form and accompanying letter must be submitted in person to a Board of Directors member. Received applications shall not be returned and become the property of the unit. An application form is at Appendix A.

Applicants between the ages of 14-17 (inclusive) must have parental/guardian approval and parental/guardian support. Parental support must be presented in writing with the application.

A Board of Directors member shall record on the application form that the application has received preliminary acceptance or has been denied at the first level of approval. After the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office has approved the background investigation and the Whatcom County DEM has issued a Washington State Emergency Worker Card, the Board of Directors reviews the application, conducts an oral interview with the applicant, and accepts or denies membership.

If the application is denied, the Board of Directors shall record the reason on the application and notify the applicant in writing. If the application is accepted, the applicant is a probationary member for 6 months. The applicant will become a full member without further vote if no issues arise during probation.

If the application has preliminary acceptance, a new personnel record shall be started and include the application. This record will include the original application once it has been returned to Summit to Sound Search and Rescue. If the applicant is denied, the application and a copy of the denial letter sent to the applicant shall be filed with other denied applications.

2.2.  Dues and Roster

Dues will be reviewed annually by the Board of Directors and recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The treasurer or designee shall collect any established dues from new members and from current unit members at the first regular meeting of the year, provide receipts, deposit monies in the unit account and record payments.

The treasurer shall report to the Board of Directors any member failing to pay the dues by the deadline defined in the bylaws. Any member who is in arrears shall have their membership terminated. Any member is welcome to approach the board of directors at a business meeting to discuss discrepancies before the deadline as outline in the bylaws for special consideration.

The secretary or designee shall maintain a current list of members and personal information including contact information and state emergency worker card numbers. The secretary or designee shall provide copies of the roster to all members and local emergency managers. Information deemed private including Social Security Number, medical information and other personal information will not be a part of the roster. The roster will be available to all members through the WhatcomES.org website.

The rosters and callout lists are for search and rescue use only. No member will share phone numbers or member information without prior permission. No member will use email addresses for anything other than SAR communications without prior permission from the addressee.

2.3.  Maintaining Membership

This unit defines training as part of its mission: members must train to be the best and must meet training standards and expectations. Members may be assigned to positions within the unit for business and training purposes. Members are expected to meet the requirements of WAC 118.04.120 and the basic member qualifications defined in the “Qualification Level” section of these policies. Support members must meet basic safety standards and certifications approved by the majority of the Board of Directors.

All members, except support members, are expected to participate in meetings, training, and organizational activities. Members are expected to participate at a minimum of 60% for STS training activities and at a minimum of 75% aggregate participation for all STS meetings, training, and activities. Support members are expected to participate in 75% of general and Board of Directors meetings. Members are expected to participate in as many missions as they are available for.

A member failing to meet the required level of participation or training will meet with the Board of Directors to assess the sub-standard performance level. If sub-standard performance is ongoing without just cause, the member will be removed from the callout roster and membership will be terminated. When a member has just cause for missing the required training participation level (e.g. shift work), special training sessions will be set up in an effort to accommodate the member’s schedule. If the member misses the special sessions, the member will be removed from the callout roster and membership will be terminated.

All members must be actively involved in acquiring required skills and any additional skills, which further the unit's mission. These may include unit skills, qualifications in another group, unit positions or external certification.

Members are responsible for keeping track of their qualification expiration dates and for scheduling training in a timely manner to prevent qualification expiration.

2.3.1.      Qualification Levels:

The following training levels encompass the qualifications outlined in WAC 118.04.120 and the Washington State SARVAC Core Competencies.

o   Trainee: Member is restricted from responding to missions, but may attend and participate in training.

o   Limited Support SAR Responder: Members may respond to the operations base for mission callouts, but are restricted to base support.

o   Support SAR Responder: Responder who operates in base and has a SAR function.

o   Limited Field SAR Responder: A responder who regularly leaves base for operations, but remains on a road, in vehicle or at a checkpoint on a road.

o   Field Qualified SAR Responder: A responder who is fully certified to general field operations.

o   Team Lead (TL): Current Field Qualified SAR Responder, who is also responsible for leading a search team.

o   Operations Chief (OC): Responsible for managing the search operations.

Specific classes that apply to each training level are outlined in Appendix C.

Specialty group requirements may include more extensive and detailed qualification to meet specialty needs. Those requirements are outlined in each group’s SOPs.

Members who are not qualified for specific Search & Rescue duties shall not be assigned to such duties, unless specifically directed by the IC or OC acting as the IC representative and then only when the member will be under the direct supervision and control of personnel who are qualified for that specific assignment.

All volunteers must wear clothing appropriate to their assigned task. Clothing must be appropriate to terrain, location, weather, and mission objectives.

Clothing or badge should clearly identify the person wearing it as a Search & Rescue volunteer.


2.3.2.      Volunteer Hours

Each member is required to turn in his or her volunteer hours to the designated officer monthly. Hours must be broken down into Training (monitored or evaluated), Mission, and other.

2.3.3.      External Certifications

It is the responsibility of the member to file with the training officer copies of current certification of skills, licenses, or permits obtained outside the training purview of search and rescue.

2.3.4.      Field Debriefing Forms

Each member is required to submit his or her field debriefing form to the OC on scene or to the secretary within 72 hours of the conclusion of each mission.

2.4.  Termination of Membership

When a member leaves Summit to Sound, all unit owned equipment & Issued ID must be returned within 30 days.

The unit will notify DEM of the member’s termination from the unit.

After leaving Summit to Sound, retained logos may be kept for nostalgia, but not for public display.

2.5.  Leave of Absence

Members who intend to be unavailable for missions, trainings and meetings for an extended duration must submit a letter requesting a leave of absence. The letter will be submitted to the secretary or designee and approved or denied by the board. The board’s decision will be recorded and filed in the personnel file.

A leave of absence will not be extended to members for more than one year.

A member returning from a leave of absence must attend a Business meeting or month membership meeting and present a letter to an officer asking for reinstatement.

Members on leave of absence are not allowed to respond to missions or attend training, and are not required to attend meetings. They will be removed from callout system for the duration of their leave of absence.


2.6.  Membership Meetings

The general membership shall meet at least 10 months of the year to conduct unit business including debriefings and training.

Additional training opportunities will be provided outside the general membership meetings.

Guests may attend up to two meetings without applying for membership. The Executive Board may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Guests may be asked to step out during certain personnel and mission discussions

2.7.  Equipment

Members are expected to outfit themselves with personally owned equipment and consumables. This equipment shall be the sole responsibility of the member and must include these 11 essentials as appropriate for your specialty group:

o   Skin protection (sun & bug)

o   Light source

o   Fire starter

o   Food (minimum 24 hours)

o   First Aid Kit

o   Whistle

o   Insulation (extra clothing)

o   Shelter

o   Navigation supplies (map & compass minimum)

o   Knife (or hatchet)

o   Water (minimum 24 hours)

Members are expected to respond to callouts and training with equipment appropriate for the mission, climate, terrain, and skill level.

Members must have a phone, pager, or device able to receive phone messages.

Additional equipment requirements and recommendations are outlined in the group SOGs.

2.8.  Member Behavior and Responsibilities

Members are expected to foster an atmosphere of positive cooperation and support and maintain professional behavior. It is in the best interest of the unit to have members who are courteous, thoughtful, alert to danger and respectful of other persons and property. Search and Rescue is a team activity and members are expected to be able to work with others in a positive team environment. Members are expected to:

o   Bring before the membership any condition affecting the safety of a member or of any activity

o   Take the pledge on safety: "Any time any thing is wrong any where, all will know about it"

o   Conduct themselves so their actions are a positive reflection on Summit to Sound.

Harassment, bullying, or hazing in any form will not be tolerated. A charge of harassment, bullying, or hazing requires documentation or witness by another STS member and will be brought before the STS Board. If the Board substantiates the accusation, the member accused will be subject to the Quality Consistency Plan (Appendix B)

Charges of harassment, bullying, or hazing and of victimization (e.g. “Everyone is picking on me.” “I’m being singled out.” etc.) without documentation or witness are forms of harassment and will not be tolerated. Members acting in this manner will be subject to the Quality Consistency Plan (Appendix B)

STS will also not tolerate undocumented or unwitnessed personal attacks (e.g. You’re a liar. No one trusts you. etc.) and dramatic negative statements about the organization (e.g. Some members are putting the organization in danger. No one can complain without being bullied out of the organization. etc.). Members committing any such acts will be subject to the Quality Consistency Plan (Appendix B).

Members are expected to follow the chain of command. For example, take suggestions, issues, complaints, etc. to your group leader first. If not satisfied then to a unit officer. If still not satisfied, the STS Board is the next step. The top of the chain is the SAR Council. Complaints beyond your group leader must be submitted in writing.

Members not acting in the best interest of the unit shall be subject to the Quality Consistency Plan. (Appendix B)

2.9.  Multi Jurisdiction DEM Card Holders

Members holding DEM cards from multiple jurisdictions shall honor DEM restrictions issued by one jurisdiction in all jurisdictions.

When responding to a mutual aid involving home jurisdiction, members must sign in with the unit from their home jurisdiction.

2.10.       Logos

Logo purchases must be approved by the President or Vice-President.

Logos will not be displayed by non-members or probationary members.

If financially feasible, the unit may buy items with unit logos from members leaving the organization, for resale to current or new members.

The Board of Directors will determine the amount offered based on condition.

2.11.       Documentation Retention

All documentation shall be retained for 7 years.

3.      Specialty Group Leaders

Specialty groups consists of DOGS, Mounted (Equine), Swiftwater, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV), Ground, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The Group Leader is responsible for coordinating the training of a specialty group through the training officer and for keeping members in compliance with both group and unit requirements.

3.1.1.      Position Duties:

o   Attends STS general and Board of Directors meetings

o   Coordinates with the training officer on DEM training mission numbers

o   Aligns training sessions with the training officer to assure all safety and tactical aspects of all group operations meet Washington Administrative Codes and Summit to Sound Search & Rescue safety guidelines

o   Keeps sign in sheets and turn them over to the secretary

o   Assists group members to set training goals and attain them

o   Reports to and is accountable to the training officer

o   Votes in the Board of Directors meetings

o   Establishes equipment and skill level requirements for specialty group

o   Schedules training for specialty group

o   Finds qualified instructors for special training

o   Assists new members with all documentation and policies and forms

3.1.2.      Skills and Qualifications:

The Group Leader must have Field level of training. Familiarity with various search techniques and search management adds to the officer's effectiveness. The Group Leader should have a strong background in the group's specialty. The Group Leader must be capable of working in a collaborative manner with the members of the group as well as other members of STS.

4.      Finances

The treasurer will transfer money between the checking and savings account, to keep a balance in the checking account to cover day to day operational expenses.

Donations specified for a specific group or project will be held in reserve.

Money held in reserve for a specific group or project shall be spent on that group or project within 24 months. Money not spent within 24 months shall be transferred to general funds.

o     Money held in the animal emergency fund will not be subject to a time limit.

o     A request to extend the time limit for a project that is taking longer than expected may be submitted to the StS Board.

5.      Officer On Call

This unit shall have an officer on call readily available 24 hours a day and is responsible for responding to requests for assistance from local and state agencies. The list of Officers on Call and the call priority will be decided by the president. The list will be submitted to the SAR Coordinators and DEM each and updated as needed.

Upon receiving a request for assistance, the officer on call shall determine if the unit should respond and initiate the callout procedure if warranted.

6.      Use of recording Devices

6.1.  General

The use of cameras, video and audio recording devices or digital devices such as cell phones, MP3 players, and PDAs that have recording capability can cause violations of privacy and breaches of confidentiality.

However, cameras and other recording devices have uses during a SAR mission – cell phones may be used for communication or navigation, cameras may be used to document evidence at a possible crime scene or to document operations for historical or training purposes.

For that reason, the use of cameras, video and audio recording devices or digital devices such as cell phones, MP3 players, and PDAs that have recording capability at any SAR mission, training sessions, or event is strictly governed by the following policies.

6.2.  Photographs of Members

Membership acceptance into Summit to Sound SAR is a member’s acceptance that photographs of the member taken during SAR mission, training sessions, or events are releasable to the general public with the following exceptions:


Members shall not take or use photographs to harass, embarrass, or annoy others. All StS SAR policies, including the policies on harassment, discrimination, and professional conduct, apply to photographs.

Whether or not a photograph is “inappropriate” is nebulous and is different for different individuals. If there is any question or doubt about whether or not a photograph is inappropriate or embarrassing, the member(s) who appear in the photograph(s) will be asked for and will give permission, in writing, before any such photograph is used, shown, or publicized in any manner. This includes any image inadvertently taken with a member’s cell phone camera or other digital imaging device.


A member who posts photos on personal web sites or e-mails images to friends, colleagues, or others is personally responsible for the image(s) and any subsequent “fall out” from doing so.

6.2.3.      Photographs of Victim or Family

Any photographs containing individually identifiable information of a victim or victim family members are covered by the HIPAA Privacy Rule and must be protected in the same manner as medical care reports or any other such documentation.

Photographs of victims or victim family members may be used for SAR training purposes. However, any photographs so used will be removed from any presentation published on the StS SAR web site.

6.2.4.      Violation of this Policy

Any violation of the Recording Device policies, intentional or unintentional, will result in the immediate termination of Summit to Sound membership.


7.      Unit Equipment

7.1.  Mission numbers

No unit or council equipment will be used or removed from the building without a mission number.

Equipment will be signed out by the member using it whether on a mission, training, or to be taken in for maintenance or repair.

7.2.  Use

Members are expected to return all unit equipment cleaned, restocked and refueled (if less than ¾ tank). The final cleanup may be delayed by one day by notifying and getting approval of a director. Fuel cards are available for refueling from the President or Council Chairman.

Equipment that requires additional drying time may be hung to dry and must be put away within seven days.

Unit equipment will not be modified without Board approval.

Equipment may be borrowed for use at non-StS trainings with a director’s prior approval. Borrowed equipment will be signed out by an STS member and that member will be responsible for the equipment’s care and return.

Major pieces of equipment are governed by specific equipment SOGs.

7.3.  Damage

If unit equipment is lost or damaged, a Summit to Sound director AND the IC is to be notified immediately. The member using the equipment at the time of loss or damage will be responsible for filing all paperwork relating to the incident. Damaged or lost equipment claims process shall be started within 14 days of incident. The initial process includes filling out the appropriate DEM form.

7.4.  Equipment Officer

An equipment officer will be appointed by the President. The equipment officer will coordinate maintenance and repairs on unit equipment. The equipment officer reports to the board regarding equipment issues.

8.      Amendments

8.1.  Proposed Amendments

Amendments to these policies can be suggested by any member of the unit. Proposed amendments to the policies shall be drafted by the Board of Directors and presented to the general membership at a regularly scheduled meeting at least 1 month prior to the scheduled vote. The amendments will require a majority vote of the unit's members present at a regularly scheduled meeting to become effective.

8.2.  Recording Amendments

Successive generations of all unit documents will have a creation date in the document footer along with the title. References to "versions" of documents will be made by this creation date.

APPENDIX A - Membership Application
APPENDIX B - Quality Consistency Plan
APPENDIX C - Required Training

Appendicies are available in the PDF version


Last updated 08 March 2016