Welcome to the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference (ASRC)! We hope that, though it might be hard work at times, joining our team will be both enjoyable and rewarding.
The Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group (AMRG) is the Pittsburgh area Group (local chapter) of the ASRC and of the Mountain Rescue Association. Our training standards, operational standards, and administrative requirements are set by the ASRC and MRA. Group members wear an ASRC uniform and MRA patches that reflect their MRA certification levels. When we go out on a mission, all members function under a unified ASRC command. In addition to AMRG, there are ASRC Groups in Columbia and College Park, Maryland; and in McLean, Charlottesville, Richmond, Roanoke, and Norfolk, Virginia. AMRG is a certified member team of the Mountain Rescue Association. The ASRC is also affiliated with the Eastern Region of the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) and the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR).
If you haven’t already read the AMRG Fact Sheet, do so, as it describes what we do. ASRC missions occur about once every three weeks, though sometimes we have several close together and then none for a long time, and not all ASRC Groups are called out on each mission. Operations are mostly lost person searches with a few downed aircraft searches and mountain or cave rescues for variety, but the majority of our rescue work is when we look for a lost person or downed aircraft. For some reason, most of our operations seem to occur at three in the morning during freezing rain (so don’t say you weren’t warned!) There’s never any requirement that you go on a particular mission.
If you are interested in joining, come to some of our meetings or training sessions, and get to know the members. After you’ve had a chance to get to know the members and vice versa, go to our Training Officer, and ask to be proposed for Probationary Membership at one of the meetings. If the membership is willing, you’ll be voted in as a Probationary Member (that’s why you should get to know the members first).
If all you want to do is come to an occasional training session, there’s no need to join. Meetings and training sessions are open to all interested people, although some sessions may require prior training for safety.
Probationary membership is good for up to a year, during which time you are expected to work with the members enough that you will be voted in as a full member. After three months as a Probationary Member, you are eligible to be voted in as an Active Member. Before you can be voted in as an Active Member, though, you must have done the following:
Attend at least one training or field exercise
Read the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Training Standards, SAROP, and Operations Manual and signed a statement to that effect. You will be issued a copy of the Member’s Manual, containing all these publications, when you pay your $40 initiation fee. The initiation fee includes first year's dues ($20), ASRC Field Team Member Training Manual ($10), and PA State Police criminal background check fee ($10).
Active members don’t have to do anything but participate in business meetings on a regular basis. For instance, lawyers or CPAs who help out with the Group’s administrative work and who attend meetings on a regular basis can be Active Members with full rights of voting and holding office, even if they’ve never set foot in the woods. Members may help out at a search base without any special training or certification.
However, since we are a mountain rescue team, most who join go on to become certified, at one or more levels, for wilderness search and rescue work. Here are the certification levels:
Callout Qualified (CQ): you’re not likely to kill yourself (or someone else) the first time you go into the field and may participate in a search and rescue operation in a purely supportive role (usually under the direct supervision of an ASRC FTM or higher). To become CQ, you must:
ARMG CQs may wear the ASRC patch and shirt.
Field Team Member (FTM) / Mountain Search and Rescue Operational Member. AMRG FTMs meet the ASRC requirements for competency as a ground search and rescue techincian, as well as the MRA requirements to support and assist rescue specialists in a high-angle rope rescue. To become FTM certified, you must first meet the CQ standards, participate in four training sessions, including one on wilderness survival and one on search theory, get additional personal equipment, and meet a set of technical standards. You must pass a standard written and practical test on these standards, and then, at a Group business meeting, receive a favorable vote for FTM certification. You may find details of the standards in the ASRC Training Standards, which is part of your Member’s Manual. The Member’s Manual contains several ‘’self-teaching modules’’ that will help you toward FTM certification. To become a FTM, you must also have a current First Aid and CPR card.
Members who reach FTM / MRA Operational level may wear an FTM rocker under their ASRC patch and the MRA "support" patch on their uniform shirt.
Click here for a printable version of the AMRG FTM Equipment and Skills Checklist.
Field Team Leader (FTL) / Mountain Search and Rescue Technician IV certification has stricter and more extensive standards than FTM, which reflect the member's ability to undertake leadership roles in the field and supportive roles in search management. It goes a bit beyond the Virginia GSAR Field Team Leader training. AMRG FTL certification also requires meeting the MRA standards to undertake more direct roles in high-angle rescue, as well as minimal on-line skills such as rappelling and ascending.
Members who reach FTL / Technician IV may wear an FTL rocker under their ASRC patch, and the MRA "full" patch on their uniforms.
Click here for a printable version of the AMRG FTL Equipment and Skills Checklist.
Higher Rescue Specialist standards go beyond the FTL / Technician IV standards in technical mountain rescue. The RS standards cover building and safely operating high-angle rope rescue systems, as well as on-line skills such as being a litter attendant in a vertical rescue and alpine travel and rescue. AMRG has three levels of higher rescue tech certifications: Mountain Search and Rescue Technician III, II, and I, each representing a sequentially higher level of competency.
Base Radio Operator (BRO) is for those with radio expertise, operating primarily at Base Camp.
Search Management certification requires FTL certification as a prerequisite, and are required to undertake responsiblities in the command post such as heading an operational section or, at the higher levels, managing the search. The four levels of ASRC Search Manager IV, III, II, and I reflect increasing ability to undertake larger and more complex management tasks, with Search Manager IVs playing largely supportive roles in the mission base and Search Manager Is being prepared to lead the largest SAR responses.
AMRG Search Managers may wear patches that reflect their specialty level.
Canine Technician certification is another specialty certification open to members who reach FTL. It requires an appopriate canine partner, one- to two-year commitment with weekly trainings for you and your dog, and external certification to Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council, National Association for Search and Rescue, or other similar standards at the discretion of AMRG's canine training officer. For more information, see AMRG's "Canine SAR" link, in the menu to the left of this page.
When you have reached CQ, you will be issued an ASRC patch. You should put together an ASRC uniform as specified in the ASRC Uniform Standards, and if you wish, a uniform jacket / outer shell (patches and nametag go in the same place, and no other emblems are to be worn on uniforms or shells). You should wear your uniform to all official Group activities, including training sessions.
We have an initiation fee of $40, which includes first year's dues ($20), ASRC Field Team Member Training Manual ($10), and PA State Police criminal background check fee ($10). Dues are $20 per year. All are tax-deductible.
Please talk to any Group member if you have questions. Remember, there is no obligation to join; you may come to training sessions as a non-member. Business meetings are the first Tuesday of each month, at 6:30 PM in the second-floor administration conference room (room 2191) at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. Some summer meetings are held outdoors in a city park; call first. Training sessions are scheduled on a regular basis; call for the current schedule.
For information, contact the AMRG Training Officer
Click here for a .ZIP packet containing all the forms and documents needed by a new AMRG member