Mountainpathfinder>> Georgia SAR>> Frequently Asked Questions about...Fundamentals of Search and Rescue (FUNSAR) courses

Q: "How often do you teach FUNSAR classes?"

A: I am currently only assisting other FUNSAR instructors with their courses. I have postponed any independently-organized FUNSARs until I can re-tool the process to better serve the Georgia SAR community. Please check the NASAR website for other instructors or courses. The classes in North Carolina are often cheaper than mine because the state of North Carolina indirectly subsidizes them in certain cases.

Q: "Do I have to attend both weekends?"

A: It's a 47-hour course, so you are generally expected to attend both weekends of a course offered on a weekend basis. When I begin to organize local classes, I will probably expand them to three weekends.

Q: "Are there any pre-requisites for the FUNSAR class?"

A: No, although I recommend that you first complete the two free, online FEMA NIMS Incident Command System that I discuss later.

Q: "How do I prepare for the FUNSAR course?"


  • Start a physical conditioning program that includes walking with a light pack over hills
  • Wear hiking boots that are already broken-in
  • Complete the free online FEMA NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) Independent Study Program classes, ICS-100 and ICS-200, since several test questions are on NIMS and ICS

Q: "Will we still do the FUNSAR if it's raining, snowing, etc.?"

A: That is a decision to be made by the instructor who is offering the class. My recommendation has been based on the fact that lost person work is an all-weather affair done in daylight or dark. Classes should only be affected if weather is too hazardous to travel or work in the field (ice storm, severe thunderstorms, etc.)

Q: "What's the toughest part of the FUNSAR course?"

A: It depends. The land navigation questions are the ones most missed on the written exam. Some students have problems with determining a bearing on a map, particularly if the intended bearing is between 90 and 270 degree. because they neglect to orient the bezel/orienting lines to north. ICS questions are also frequently missed. After that, the missed questions are scattershot.

In terms of practical skills, some students have the biggest challenge with the compass courses. Setting and walking a bearing throws them off. Other students are a little uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping on the ground in an improvised shelter. It's too close to the critters for their comfort.

Otherwise, almost no one flunks the class.

Q: "What should I bring to the FUNSAR course?"


  • Check with your instructor. Otherwise, the most important thing is a good attitude. Be ready to learn. Be open to learning some new information or skills even if you've had some backcountry experience
  • Pencils, an eraser, a highlighter, and a notebook
  • Rainwear, a hat, and good boots. Some insulating clothing layers if it's cold
  • A cheap pocket calculator, or a cell phone with a calculator function
  • Some snacks since there usually aren't any snack machines where we have class
  • Be as well-rested as possible. Students often come to class on Saturdays or Sundays after having worked the night shift

Q: "Do I need everything on the SARTECH 2 pack check list in order to take the FUNSAR?"

A: Most instructors recommended that postpone purchasing the pack items, particularly the big-ticket ones, until the instructor has discussed them. The instructor or I may be able to direct you to some appropriate items at a lower cost unless you already own some backcountry equipment. However, please bring your day- or ready packs the first weekend if you already have them. We sometimes have a chance for "show and tell" so students can compare them.

Q: "Is ISAR a prerequisite for FUNSAR? Should I take it first anyway?"

A: ISAR is not a prerequisite for FUNSAR. ISAR, or Introduction to Search and Rescue, is a 20-hour class that is typically taught over a Friday night plus a Saturday and Sunday. ISAR is intended for students who want a general overview of SAR without the emphasis of field/searching skills. ISAR works well for agency officials who may be responsible for a SAR incident, or volunteers primarily interested in working in the command post or base camp. If your interests lie in actual searching, then you are better served in doing the FUNSAR prep work and then taking the FUNSAR course.

I recommend this course of action because the ISAR material is rehashed in the FUNSAR course. Since ISAR doesn't cost that much less than a FUNSAR, it's more cost-effective for students to go straight to the FUNSAR class.

Q: "What textbook is used for FUNSAR? Can I preview it?

A: The FUNSAR textbook is "Fundamentals of Search and Rescue," by Donald C. Cooper and the National Association for Search and Rescue. Here's a preview of several chapters of the book.

Q: "Why do FUNSAR classes cost so much??"

A: Each student pays $70 to NASAR as a course fee unless he or she is a NASAR member. NASAR members pay only a little less. Around $40 goes to NASAR for the textbook. There's sometimes a fee paid for the use of the classroom. My travel expenses become a factor in out-of-town classes. Copying, particularly of the color map used in the exam, is no small expense, either. One of the reasons that I no longer independently offer these classes is that I was unable to price a course that students would pay, and that provided instruction at what I thought was the appropriate level of quality. I couldn't afford to underwrite classes.

Q: "What's the daily schedule for a FUNSAR class?"

A: Here's a sample schedule.

Q: "My FUNSAR question isn't answered here. Where do I go?"

A: Your first source of information ought to be your instructor. Otherwise, mail me. Check the NASAR website. Email the NASAR FUNSAR program coordinator.

Thanks to Allen Padgett, of Search and Rescue Dogs of Georgia (SARDOG) , for his contributions to this FAQ.

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Updated Sunday, January 10, 2010, 02:35 PM
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