The importance of telecommunicators in the search and rescue (SAR) field cannot be overstated, according to ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). Dispatchers receiving and delivering accurate information in a timely manner are critical to any SAR operation. A new standard developed by ASTM International Committee F32 on Search and Rescue highlights the importance of proper training for SAR dispatchers.

The standard, ASTM F2662, Guide for Minimum Training of Dispatchers and Telecommunicators of SAR Incidents, is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee F32.02 on Management and Operations. The standard is an expansion of SAR dispatch guidelines originally developed by the Mountain Rescue Association.

ASTM F2662 establishes a minimum training standard for general and specific knowledge, skills and abilities for dispatchers, 911 operators and telecommunicators to be trained in the processing and dispatching of potential and actual SAR incidents.

“Now, for the first time, public safety agencies will have a consensus guideline to use that will allow emergency dispatchers, 911 call takers and search and rescue managers to effectively and efficiently triage calls, and to determine the optimal response to people lost or in need of rescue, especially when used in conjunction with the Mountain Rescue Association call-specific question guides,” said Timothy Kovacs, operations chief-paramedic, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Mountain Rescue, and an F32 member, in a prepared statement..

Kovacs invites all who work in search and rescue to join in the continuing standards development activities of Subcommittee F32.02. “We are seeking SAR personnel and EMS telecommunicators and dispatch personnel interested in working on companion documents, practice guidelines and call-specific questions guidelines,” said Kovacs. For technical Information, contact Timothy Kovacs, Glendale, Ariz. (phone: 602-819-4066; Committee F32 meets May 30 in conjunction with the 2009 National Conference of the National Association for Search and Rescue in Little Rock, Ark.