Message from the Chief Commissioner

About Victoria Police

Search and Rescue Squad

Release date: Wed 2 May 2007

Last updated: Tue 5 April 2016

Search and Rescue with dive gear

The Search and Rescue Squad (SAR) provides specialist expertise, advice and practical assistance in land search and rescue. This expertise covers most terrains including snow and vertical cliff search and rescue.


The Search and Rescue Squad was formed in 1957 after several unsuccessful searches for missing persons in remote areas. Initially the squad consisted of five men with considerable bush experience, whose role was to control and coordinate bush searches. When not engaged in searches these members performed general police duties.

In 1958 members were trained in diving by the Royal Australian Navy, and from this time onward the squad became responsible for underwater searches. These searches included the search and recovery of deceased persons, stolen property, weapons, court evidence, motor vehicles and other objects. The squad became fully operational in 1962 in response to the increasing demand for its services.

Search operations

The squad's duties include underwater diving, bush search and rescue, snow search and rescue, mountaineering, navigation, cliff rescue and airborne operations. They also search ship hulls for drugs, investigate diving fatalities and retrieve cars, exhibits or bodies from rivers and lakes.

Rescue operations

The Search and Rescue Squad provide assistance in land, snow and vertical cliff search and rescue. The Rescue Coordination Centre provides the squad with information on the location and assistance required. It is the squad's responsibility to provide the necessary equipment depending on whether it is a land, water, snow or vertical cliff rescue.

Operational support

Depending on the nature of an operation, the Search and Rescue Squad sometimes works with other Emergency Response Division Squads, such as the Air Wing to assist in searching and transporting members to isolated locations.

Demonstrations and protests

During planned lengthy or potentially violent public demonstrations, Search and Rescue can be deployed to remove large or solid objects that have been positioned to obstruct operational police members.

Search and Rescue has also assisted in the removal of forest demonstrators who have positioned themselves in trees or attached themselves to tree-removing equipment.

Training support for operational members

Search and Rescue assists local operational police by providing advice and formal training in bush craft and map reading.


The Search and Rescue Squad has a vast range of equipment including:

  • Dive operations vehicle, fitted with equipment to cover most operational situations
  • Four 4WDs that carry a full complement of recovery equipment including first-aid kits, winches, axes, chain slings and snatch blocks and chains
  • Two over-snow vehicles
  • Two boats
  • Communications equipment
  • Cliff rescue and climbing equipment
  • Bushwalking equipment
  • Snow equipment
  • Diving equipment

The squad uses twin-cylinder diving units for most diving operations. However, on lengthy dives or dives that are more dangerous in nature, a surface supply set up is used.  Typically on these dives the Search and Rescue dive truck is present as it contains a constant sir bank and a high pressure compressor. 

Search and Rescue operatives use a 'personal issue' drysuit which protects each diver from sharp objects and retains enough warmth to withstand even the coldest water. An inflatable 'BCD' buoyancy compensator device assists ascent to the surface through a compressed air cylinder.  Standard diving accessories include swim fins, facemask, diving knives, weight belt and a lifeline between the diver and the on-land attendant.

Search and Rescue members undertake daily maintenance procedures to make sure their specialised equipment is in top working order.

Depending on the nature of an operation, the Search and Rescue Squad sometimes works with other Emergency Response Division Squads, such as the Air Wing and water police to assist in searching and transporting members to isolated locations.

Outdoor and bush information - trip intentions form

The Victoria Police Search and Rescue Squad (SAR) has created a webpage to provide people with information about outdoor and bush safety.


Contact us

Search and Rescue Squad
100 Nelson Place
Williamstown VIC 3016
Phone  (03) 9399 7503
Fax        (03) 9399 9252 

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Victoria Police Centre 637 Flinders Street Melbourne 3005 | Ph 03 9247 6666 | Fax 03 9247 5727
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