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Keeping records of the Operations stage

Page updated: 30 November 2020

SAR operations rely on records. If you're the Incident Controller, you need to make sure you continue to record information in the Operations stage. You also need to organise records so that they are logically ordered and easy to access.

Organise records logically

Records from the SAR operation should be:

  • categorised into type
  • organised chronologically.


Keep records up to date

People involved in the SAR operation may need to access them at any time. Records may also be needed for:

  • easy reference during the operation by the Incident Management Team
  • peer review
  • suspending the operation
  • post-operation enquiries.


Continue keeping a communication log

A communication log should have been started at the beginning of the SAR operation. This needs to be maintained throughout the operation. If your log is voice-recorded, turn it into a text record as soon as you have time and resources.

Don’t rely on communication logs from other agencies and individuals

Other organisations and individuals may have started a communication log before the SAR operation began. Consider these communication logs as information sources only. This is because errors can occur when attempting to match times that have been recorded in communication logs within different systems.


Keep a log of all decisions made during the operation

Record decisions made during the SAR operation in chronological order. This means that, if necessary, decisions can be examined against the information that was known at a particular time.


Record all Incident Action Plans

Keep copies of each version of the Incident Action Plan

Incident Action Plans are likely to change as the SAR operation progresses. Permanently record a copy of each Incident Action Plan before updating it. Once you update an Incident Action Plan, it becomes a new Incident Action Plan.

Use a format that can be easily accessed

Keep Incident Action Plans in a format that can be easily accessed by everyone involved in the SAR operation. For example, this could be on:

  • an electronic system
  • paper
  • whiteboard.


Keep a record of tasked SAR resources

This record should include:

  • a general report on the situation
  • a description of the subject
  • the time resources were tasked
  • the location where the task should be carried out
  • how the task should be completed
  • whether the tasks of some SAR resources rely on tasks being completed by other SAR resources
  • risks to tasked resources
  • the schedule of when tasked SAR resources should be reporting back and a list of events(communication triggers) that should prompt them to report back
  • the process for monitoring how tasked SAR resources are performing the tasks
  • a plan for communicating with tasked SAR resources.


Maintain situation reports

A situation report is a snapshot of the situation as it existed at the time the situation report was produced.

Situation reports need to be:

  • produced regularly
  • approved by the Incident Controller.

Situation reports provide:

  • a reference for telephone reports to SAR resources managing the operation
  • information that is easy to turn into an email report (if it’s recorded in an appropriate system)
  • a source for regular updates for informing SAR resources involved in the operation
  • a source of information for reporting to the family of the subject
  • a source of information for reporting to the media.


Keep debriefs of tasked resources

When a SAR resource has completed a task, a debrief must be completed. If you are the Incident Controller, you're responsible for ensuring this gets done. All debriefs must be recorded and added to records of the task so the Incident Management Team can access them.

The debrief must include information about:

  • how well the task was completed
  • whether or not all aspects of the task were achieved.

This information needs to be received before the Incident Management Team is informed that the task has been completed.

The debrief should also include information about the task such as:

  • evidence of the SAR resource’s movement while carrying out the task (for example, live tracking of the resource, or a record of tracking)
  • images recorded by SAR resources
  • an assessment of the conditions encountered
  • information about possible gaps in search coverage
  • an estimate of the likelihood that the completed action would have located the subject
  • assessments of the likelihood of finding the subject
  • an assessment of the condition of the SAR resource and its capability for re-tasking.
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