VOLUNTEER & SERVE.
What do you actually do?
We focus primarily on searches for lost and missing persons in a wilderness or non-urban environment. We can and have worked on searches ranging from a neighborhood search for a missing child to large, multi-day incidents utilizing hundreds of volunteers searching thousands of acres.
From time to time, we also put our skills to use in public service providing communications and support for events such as running and cycling races. In addition, we have close partnerships with many local emergency management agencies and have assisted with disaster relief during a variety of natural disasters.
The Mountaineer Area Rescue Group responds to most requests for assistance from responsible agencies including police, fire and emergency management.
Where are you located?
Currently MARG does not have a set “base” in the way that your local fire, police or EMS agencies have stations. We hold meetings at the American Red Cross offices in White Birch Towers at 1299 Pineview Drive, while our training exercises are held throughout the region. Some equipment is stored in Monongalia County while some is stored in Preston County. In addition, our search managers and some of our more experienced members will often travel with enough equipment and supplies to get a search started prior to the arrival of the team’s primary equipment.
We are looking for a more permanent home in Monongalia or Preston County. Ideally this location would have meeting space, and storage space for our equipment, as well as a garage that could house our mobile command vehicle and equipment trailer. If you can help MARG find a new home please contact us.
How do I join?
Simply come to one of our meetings on the third Monday of the month. Monthly meetings are held in the American Red Cross offices in Suite 300 of White Birch Towers at 1299 Pineview Drive in Morgantown. The meeting starts at 6:30pm, but we typically have a new member orientation session at 6pm. This orientation will introduce how the team operates and is required to become callout qualified and to go on searches. The MARG vice president is currently in charge of these sessions; send her an email at: if you are planning on attending a meeting for the first time so that a board member can be there to meet you.
Do I have to be from a certain area to join?
We have no set residency requirement. The majority of our members live and work in either Monongalia or Preston counties in West Virginia however, we have members in many of the surrounding counties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania as well.
What experience is required?
None! Our members come from all sorts of backgrounds: doctors, engineers, businessmen, career emergency services personnel, students, etc. Regardless of what experience you have coming in, we’ll train you so that you can safely and effectively serve your community as a search and rescue volunteer.
What is the time commitment for members?
There is no formal time commitment or set number of meetings/training/searches you need to attend. However, many of the skills used in SAR are “perishable” and require regular practice to maintain proficiency.
When/where/how often do you meet and train?
Our monthly business meeting is held the third Monday of every month at 6:30pm at the American Red Cross offices in Suite 300 of White Birch Towers, at 1299 Pineview Drive in Morgantown. This meeting usually lasts 1-2 hours and typically includes a classroom training session on a topic relevant to search and rescue. We train as a group once a month, typically on the Saturday and/or Sunday following the business meeting for that month.
What type of training will I receive?
Our basic training includes search tactics, orienteering and navigation, wilderness first-aid, litter-handling, night operations, rope rescue, radio communications, dispatch procedures, search management and team leadership.
We also encourage our members to seek additional training from outside sources including: first aid, CPR, amateur radio, search management, cave rescue, and emergency management.
How often do you get called out for searches?
This tends to vary depending on the weather, hunting & fishing seasons, and other factors. One to three searches a month is about average but it’s not uncommon to have none one month and 4-5 another. Occasionally a search becomes a longer multi-day mission but many are resolved within a day or less, sometimes even a few hours. As a volunteer with personal and work commitments we understand that you will participate around your own schedule.
When can I start going to searches?
We require you to reach a certification level called Callout-Qualified (CQ) before going on a search. This involves:
becoming a member of MARG (submitting a MARG application, payment of dues, getting a background check)
attending an introductory presentation about the team and how SAR works
attending two field trainings
assembling a call-out pack which contains essential items
taking several FEMA courses
Depending on your flexibility and schedule this could take as little as a few months.
Am I required to go on searches?
Once you reach the level of Callout Qualified you will be added to our dispatch list and notified anytime the team is requested for a search or other emergency. Our hope is that if we receive a Callout a majority of members will be able to respond. Realistically, we realize that our members are volunteers with jobs, families and a variety of other commitments and won’t be able to make it out for every search. All we ask is that when you receive an alert, you take a few minutes to think about your availability and see if it’s something you may be able to help out with.
How much does it cost to join?
Our membership dues as an organization are fairly low: $35 the first year covers a background check and $25 every year afterward. This money helps pay for our dispatch service, insurance, business expenses and mission expenses.
How much does it cost after I join?
You will need a pack with the minimum essential equipment and clothing suitable to be outdoors in all types of weather. If you’re an active outdoors person, you may already own much of what’s required. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of fuel to get to searches and training events and the cost of other expendables (food, batteries, etc.). If you save your receipts, you may be able towrite off most of the expenses on your personal income tax return.
I’m a WVU student, can I join?
Of course! Many of our members are in some way related to the University and it’s rare that we don’t have a student or two on the team at any given time. Students are a great asset for the team Community service (especially as part of something unique like a SAR team) is a great resume builder and there are many ways to apply your studies to SAR and apply SAR to your studies.