Found ’em! Search and Rescue merit badge requirements released

The search is over.

The hotly anticipated debut of Search and Rescue merit badge — the BSA’s 130th current merit badge — has finally arrived.

Search and Rescue merit badge, or SAR for short, has an official earn date of Monday, Aug. 20. That’s the first day Scouts can start working on requirements for the merit badge.

Of course, your Scouts will want the official merit badge pamphlet and emblem, both available at your local Scout Shop or online at

Follow the jump for info on merit badge counselors and the complete list of requirements. 

Where to find SAR merit badge counselors

The best places for units and Scouts to start looking for merit badge counselors include local SAR groups, fire or police departments, SAR canine groups, and the NASAR—National Association of Search and Rescue.

For contacts near you, visit as well as federal SAR groups in your area.

Search and Rescue merit badge requirements

1. Do the following:

a. Explain to your counselor the hazards you are most likely to encounter while participating in search and rescue (SAR) activities, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
b. Discuss first aid and prevention for the types of injuries or illnesses that could occur while participating in SAR activities, including: snakebites, dehydration, shock, environmental emergencies such as hypothermia or heatstroke, blisters, and ankle and knee sprains.

2. Demonstrate knowledge to stay found and prevent yourself from becoming the subject of a SAR mission.

a. How does the buddy system help in staying found and safe?
b. How can knowledge of the area and its seasonal weather changes affect your plans?
c. Explain how the Ten Essentials are similar to a “ready pack.”

3. Discuss the following with your counselor:

a. The difference between search and rescue
b. The difference between PLS (place last seen) and LKP (last known point)
c. The meaning of these terms:

(1) AFRCC (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center)
(2) IAP (Incident Action Plan)
(3) ICS (Incident Command System)
(4) Evaluating search urgency
(5) Establishing confinement
(6) Scent item
(7) Area air scent dog
(8) Briefing and debriefing

4. Find out who in your area has authority for search and rescue and what their responsibilities are. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain the official duties of a search and rescue team.

5. Complete the training for ICS-100, Introduction to Incident Command System. Print out the certificate of completion and show it to your counselor. Discuss with your counselor how the ICS compares with Scouting’s patrol method.

6. Identify four types of search and rescue teams and discuss their use or role with your counselor. Then do the following:

a. Interview a member of one of the teams you have identified above, and learn how this team contributes to a search and rescue operation. Discuss what you learned with your counselor.
b. Describe the process and safety methods of working around at least two of the specialized SAR teams you identified above.
c. Explain the differences between wilderness, urban, and water SARs.

A Note About Unauthorized and Restricted Activities

The BSA’s Guide to Safe Scouting states under “Unauthorized and Restricted Activities” that flying in aircraft as part of a search and rescue mission is an unauthorized activity for youth members. For complete information, see

7. Discuss the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system, latitude, and longitude. Then do the following:

a. Using a 1:24,000 scale USGS topographic map, show that you can identify a location of your choice using UTM coordinates.
b. Using a 1:24,000 scale map, ask your counselor to give you a UTM coordinate on the map, then identify that location.
c. Show that you can identify your current location using the UTM coordinates on a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and verify it on a 1:24,000 scale map.
d. Determine a hypothetical place last seen, and point out an area on your map that could be used for containment using natural or human-made boundaries.

8. Choose a hypothetical scenario, either one presented in this merit badge pamphlet or one created by your counselor.

Then do the following:

a. Complete an incident objectives form for this scenario.
b. Complete an Incident Action Plan (IAP) to address this scenario.
c. Discuss with your counselor the behavior of a lost person and how that would impact your incident action plan (for example, the differences between searching for a young child versus a teen).
d. After completing 8a–8c, discuss the hypothetical scenario with your counselor.

9. Discuss with your counselor the terms hasty team and hasty search. Then do the following:

a. Plan and carry out a practice hasty search—either urban or wilderness—for your patrol or troop. Include the following elements in the search: clue awareness, evidence preservation, tracking the subject, and locating the subject using attraction or trail sweep.
b. When it’s over, hold a team debriefing to discuss the hasty search. Discuss problems encountered, successful and unsuccessful tactics, and ideas for improvement.

10. Find out about three career or volunteer opportunities in search and rescue. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this professional or volunteer position. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this position might interest you.

Photo by Flickr user bossco


  1. Sadly as usual, National cannot give information in a timely manner so scouts are discouraged because promised dates at introduction do not happen. Suggestion, do not release a badge unless you know you have your ducks in a row.

  2. Bryan
    The statement above that says. “Where to find SAR merit badge counselors
    The best places for units and Scouts to start looking for merit badge counselors include local SAR groups, fire or police departments, SAR canine groups, and the NASAR—National Association of Search and Rescue,” is not accurate.

    Scouts and units do not look for merit badge counselors. Councils and Districts have merit badge counselor lists of counselors who are registered with national, have completed a background check and have completed Youth Protection training before they become a counselor.

    The Scoutmaster’s Handbook states that, “The Scout obtains from his Scoutmaster a signed merit badge application and the name of a qualified counselor for that merit badge.” It is not the responsibility of the scout to find a counselor.

    Trying to “Live the Oath”

  3. To the guy all in a tizzy over who finds merit badge counselors, did it ever occur to you that this note is not directed primarily at Scouts, but to adult Scouters? I know it says, “units and Scouts,” but all over this page we’re told that Bryan on Scouting is a blog for the BSA’s adult leaders. The way I’m reading the note, I’m just really glad they’re encouraging units to be sure they’re using people from the community who are actually involved in SAR preparation, training, and operations rather than just printing out the requirements and teaching on their own with a little help from Google (which we all know is what happens far too often with merit badges). And who knows, maybe there is a Boy Scout who knows someone who would be perfect for teaching this merit badge. Would that be so bad? It’s obvious that anyone recruited to teach needs to through the proper channels to become a counselor. I don’t think this note suggests otherwise.

  4. They left out the mountain rescue association and national cave rescue council and SPRAT. There is so much more they could add like patient packaging and transport

  5. Although there are no doubt good intentions with this merit badge, SAR is a prime example of what not to do as a merit badge. SAR also shows how a merit badge can be incomplete as a learning opportunity. I have been on many SAR’s as a civilian volunteer that include many type of localities and terrain and requirement 2a is a prime example of not understanding what is entailed during the search. A vast majorities of SAR’s are for the single individual who is lost, panicks and keeps moving. SAR’s are also a long term event that may consume many hours or days. I suggest Texas pulls this badge and do a rework and quit trying to please everyone and work for the betterment of SCOUTING.

  6. By the way. What do you tell an 11 or 12 year old scout who finds the victim dead, ravaged by animals in the wild and broken? That’s an experience they will remember for a lifetime. Gross? Innapropriate? That’s life.

    • I have been in SAR for 24 years. The team is was with in Colorado for 15, allowed people to join at 16 and one of my scouts in my troop joined and yes he had to eventually deal with carrying out a body. Even as a SAR member you have the ability to not respond and make the decision to do it when you feel you are ready. I think this badge needs a lot more and should be more like lifeguard BSA with first aid, survival, orienteering, emergency preparedness……… Prerequisites This appears to be set up by NASAR as the focus is on the individual as a SAR member and not on the Team accomplishing the goal

    • Mike, I understand what you are saying, and share some of your sentiments. However, I disagree that the badge should be pulled. It may not be perfect, but it accomplishes the essential purpose of all BSA merit badges: to introduce the scout to a field about which they would otherwise have little exposure. As others have noted, it is not the purpose of this, or any, merit badge to certify the scout as ready to enter the field; only to be introduced to it. I anticipate that some scouts will earn this badge, and, their curiosity satisfied, go no further, and that is fine with me. Others will get charged up, and I will encourage them to earn related merit badges like wilderness survival, first aid, and orienteering (to name only a few). Either way, the scouts horizons are broadened, and isn’t that really the point?

      As for locating a dead victim, Mike, these kids are not joining an SAR team, they are just learning some things about SAR. The requirements for the medicine merit badge do not require the scout to tell a patient that he or she has a fatal disease or attend the bedside of a patient who is dying. Why not? Because the purpose of the badge is to allow the scout to learn some basic information ABOUT the field of medicine, not to make him a physician! Same principle applies to all of the badges.

  7. @Jim Packaging and transport is part of the Venturing first aid requirement, usually done as an extended WFA course.

    @Mike The vast majority of merit badges have a Scout do something seriously enough that they learn whether they are really interested. The SAR MB is clearly not a certification of any sort.

    Requirement 2a is about not getting lost or injured, or as Paul Petzoldt put it, “avoiding survival situations”.

    • Walter, If you want to avoid getting lost, survival or first aid situations there are the Wilderness Survival, Orienteering, Camping, First Aid and Emergency Preparedness Merit Badges. No, that requirement is wrong. This merit bage should be about SEARCHING AND RESCUEING LOST INDIVIDUAL OR A GROUP. Anyone who helps should already be trained in the basics of first-aid, orienteering and tracking. Redo the requirements as well as the badge. Need pre-requisites to this badge by taking other merit badges first.

  8. Local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) squadrons are a good source for finding qualified and experienced SAR people. CAP runs regular SAR training and SAREX (evaluations) all the time. Many squadrons have a Cadet program and they are well versed in training youth for SAR missions. We have 2 scouts that are also CAP Cadets and being involved in both programs has been a tremendous benefit to both the scouts and their programs.

  9. As a membership of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) the United States Air Force Auxilary, I can say we would love to be considered as instructors as well. One of our main missions is that of SAR. Both in the air and on the ground.

    The BSA has good relationships with CAP. In fact, there’s a way to start a joint CAP Squadron / BSA Troop.

    This merit badge will be a great experience for all scouts, and I highly doubt that Scouts will ever be calle upon by local authorities to participate in SAR. But, none the less, I think it’s good for scouts to get this kind of exposer to real world ordeals, in a classroom setting.

    Just one man’s opinion though.

    McLean Haughey, C/MSgt, CAP
    Life Scout, BSA

  10. Unfortunatly, This seems a pretty water down cariculum for this subject. It glances across the search function and does not even hit on the rescue function. It should contain a lot more practical activities.

    I was hoping it would include some basic low angle rescue techniques and litter use which is not covered at all in the Climbing MB and only touched on for hte EP merit Badge.

    In all its a good start but it really needs to be beefed up.

    Just my Thoughts
    Capt. Harold Oney, LFD
    Eagle Scout

    • A good suggestion could be beefing up the emergency preparedness pin and make it an award.

      First Aid mb
      Emergency Preparedness mb
      Lifesaving mb
      Climbing mb
      Wilderness Survival mb
      Fire Safety mb
      And Safety mb

      Include participation in several disater response events or training or SAR actions.

      This is a noteworthy goal.

  11. This is a Boy Scout badge, so it must be appropriate for boys as young as 10. Scouts can work on any merit badge at any time, including this one.

    Venturing age youth are ready for litters and low angle rescue. That was taught to the Venturing crew that I took WFA with a few years ago.

    • And Boy Scouts also goes up to age 18, so advanced first aid, litters etc IS appropriate. Just because a 10 could begin working on the MB doesn’t mean he needs to complete the MB.

      Also do not underestimate the abilities of younger Scouts. William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt stated the following, and although it applies to youth leadership, it can also apply the ability to learn and use valuable skills.

      “The leadership involved sounds like quite a responsibility for a boy. But he can carry it, provided he feels his Scoutmaster stands behind him, ready to guide and counsel, and just ready to trust and depend on him to carry through.”

      4th edition SM HB.

  12. I was hoping for more! With the exception of some of requirement #5, #6 and #7 this is very similar to what we teach as part of the Emergancy Prep MB in our council currently. I am glad to have the new badge – just expecting a bit more of a challange to be offered in the requirements.

  13. Most SAR teams have age requirements that would prevent scouts from being eligible to participate on missions. So, like many other merit badges (e.g. Space Exploration, Railroading, Textile), the purpose is to inform the scout and generate interest in possible life-long activities. It even works for the adult leaders. A few years ago our troop had a SAR demonstration as part of a wilderness survival weekend. Once my sons aged out, I and another ASM joined the SAR group.

    • The best response for this merit badge yet. I’ve been a scout leader for 20 years and the idea behind merit badges is exactly as you have set forth; It’s not a college class or adult on the job training. Some of these Dads need to calm down, Jeez… they are mostly 12 & 13 year olds and we are trying get them up, get them involved, and get them away from the TV/ computer screen for a few hours a week.

  14. Our son, an Eagle Scout, completed the SAR merit badge this past weekend at WashJam, to whom National granted an advance release. Pierce County Search and Rescue did a terrific job of covering the basis. While I tend to agree that pre-reqs would strengthen the experience, this badge adds another facet to an already well-rounded program.

  15. I found that like most merit badges scouts can earn, it is a learning experience.

    No one expects a scout, whether a tenderfoot or Eagle to be an expert in SAR. But a scout who is knowledgeable is far more helpful then a beginning group of volunteers.

    Like the engineering merit badge doesn’t qualify a scout to design a car, the SAR merit badge doesn’t make a scout a veteran at SAR.

    Put your comments in that perspective.

  16. Just a quick comment. Like so many merit badges this is designed to give the Scout an introduction to a possible career.(See R10) While a lot of material is covered, It is not intended to be comprehensive or all inclusive. We certainly don’t expect a Scout to practice dentistry after completing the Dentistry merit badge! However the idea suggested by several people that there ought to be some prerequesites(eg the FIrst Aid MB should make R1b pretty easy) seems to be a good one. Haven’t seen the new MBP yet but I am also wondering if there are any counselor certification/training requirements similar to the ones for lifesaving or the shooting merit badges. Just looking over the requirements piqued my curiosity to learn what some of the terms mean. Also that requirement 9 a&b sounds pretty challenging to me.

  17. Definitely needs to be more challenging. Whoever came up with these requirements is severely underestimating the knowledge, abilities and skills that youth can perform WHEN there is an expectation of high performance.

    Unfortunately our society as a whole wants to keep people as children into their 20s.

  18. To all who have expressed their issues with the merit badge, I offer the thought that you can remedy your concerns through well designed and properly executed training. The merit badge standards are the minimum requirements…you can always elevate your teaching and training methodology. If you try to teach this merit badge in a day, you are going to achieve the minimal result. If you spend some time with this merit badge, incorporating hands-on training and field training exercises, you can achieve a high level of competency. I, too, have significant experience in Urban, Wilderness, and Disaster SAR. This merit badge offers a good baseline knowledge to the scouts, provided the trainer properly prepares and puts forth the effort.

    As far as the “challenge” comments above go, plan your training to be challenging and realistic, train your scouts to a higher level than the minimum standard, and assist them in achieving a high standard of success. Incorporate as much “hands-on” as you can in the training. Go beyond the hypothetical situations and have your scouts participate in physical SAR exercises, using them in roles IAW their age/abilities. Do more than just talk about UTM – use it in your exercise and have your scouts actually navigate! Incorporate the first aid skills in the exercise using moulage. Use this as an opportunity to put different scouts into staff and leadership roles. Incorporate challenges that involve other skills from other merit badges your scouts have, such as rope work, hasty pioneering, signalling, etc. Ultimately, the success or failure is determined by the effort your put into teaching this merit badge!

  19. In the State of Washington SAR, under state guidelines, is run and controlled by the county Sheriffs. So contact your local Sheriff’s office for SAR members to help.

  20. After reading the posts about the whole point of finding a councilor are really mute. The point of this article is to introduce a new merit badge to expand the ever growing list. I will say this. Every council and every unit handles the councilor issue differently. As a Unit Commissioner, ScoutMaster, and Crew Advisor I find that the units that crank out the best and most independent scouts are the ones that make the scout find a councilor that they are comfortable with. In my unit the process is that they come to me to acquire a MB card and I ask them who they are going to contact and what there goal is. My SPL and PL educate the new scouts on the process. If they need help finding a MB councilor I help them but I do not and will not tell them who to go to.

  21. As stated by others, this is to introduce scouts to SAR, not make them SAR ready. The one requirement I felt was missing was a discussion or review of the equipment necessary for SAR. Equipment required on a personal level, and equipment required on a team level. It could have been as simple as “Review the contents of the NASAR personal SAR pack and the why each item is required.”

  22. as a member of my local “SAR” team , I’m going to tell those of you that are worried of background checks , I had to go through a very extensive background check to join, In most cases your working hand in hand with the local Sheriffs dept. Don’t know about other places but my “SAR” team is loaded with former scouts and scouters ,as well as former military . They are the most professional group of people I have ever worked with, that take their “volunteer job” very serious some of these people put in as much as 400 volunteer hours every year! How many people do you know that are that committed to a cause that wakes you up at 2am calling for help and will drag their rears out of bed and throw on a pack and head out into the woods without hardly a clue as to where to look.

  23. I think that this merit badge has been founded in good faith. Last I knew the purposes of merit badges were to allow a scout to find a new perspective on something and help him grow into a man becoming well rounded. In my case I found my career path from taking a merit badge. There is nothing stopping the scout from learning more, but as a government SAR member I think that the merit badge that they just created does just that, it provides a brief overview allowing them to splash into something, this in no way is oriented to certify a SAR Team Member.

5 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  4. Calendar of New Merit Badges | Troop 139 Ortonville, MI.
  5. Harrison Ford rescued a lost Boy Scout in 2001

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