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Debriefing about a SAR operation

Page updated: 30 November 2020

If you are the Incident Controller, you need to make sure SAR resources complete debriefs.

Make sure the Incident Management Team completes appropriate debriefs before demobilisation

You need debriefs from:

  • each SAR resource in the Incident Management Team
  • each work group within the Incident Management Team.

Ask the Incident Management Team to focus on lessons learned

The debrief should summarise activities that:

  • worked extremely well
  • did not achieve the intended outcome.

The Incident Management Team should give you this debrief as soon as possible.

Collect, organise, and submit debriefs

As Incident Controller, you are responsible for collecting, organising, and submitting debriefs as per the coordinating authority's policy.


Consider completing a formal debrief for the SAR operation

A formal debrief is different from the debriefs completed before demobilisation. The purpose of a formal debrief is to:

  • identify lessons learned
  • decide how to appropriately share those lessons.

As Incident Controller, you can choose to complete a formal debrief. You must complete a formal debrief when it is requested by:

  • the Police District Commander
  • the Region Manager of another SAR organisation
  • the SAR Council or someone acting on their behalf.

Refer to NZSAR Guideline for Search and Rescue Operational Debriefing 

Aim to complete the formal debrief within 21 days

You should complete the formal debrief within 21 days of the conclusion of the SAR operation. This will allow the majority of people involved in the SAR operation to participate in the debrief.

Delay the debrief if you need to

You can complete the debrief at a later time if people who are essential to the debrief are not available within the 21 days. In this case, you can delay the debrief until an agreed date. This date should give people who can’t attend the debrief enough time to write a detailed report.

Appoint someone independent as a chairperson

As Incident Controller, you can appoint the chairperson if the Police District Commander agrees with your choice of chairperson. The Police District Commander can also appoint the chairperson.

The chairperson is responsible for:

  • collecting, organising, and sending attendees a record of the  key points identified in the debrief
  • forwarding lessons learned from the debrief to the National Search and Rescue Coordinator at the New Zealand Police


Complete reports on lessons learned

All debriefs contain information that can help improve future search and rescue responses throughout New Zealand. This information needs to be shared to be useful.

Use debriefs to complete reports about lessons learned from the SAR operation. Reports should be shared with the National Search and Rescue Coordinator at the New Zealand Police unless:

  • the reports contain private information
  • investigations and inquiries about the SAR operation are ongoing.
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