Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group

Information for Prospective Members

Welcome to the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group!  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 an all volunteer, Pittsburgh based Search and Rescue team.  Providing ground searchers, search dogs, search management, wilderness emergency medicine, cave and high-angle rescue services, our training standards, operational standards, and administrative requirements ensure that the our members provide these services with the quality and consistency that is needed. AMRG is an accredited member team of the Mountain Rescue Association, the Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Councile the the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference.

AMRG has about one search per month, though sometimes we have several close together and then none for a long time. Operations are mostly missing person searches (hunters, childern, Alzheimer's patients, crime victims), with the occational downed aircraft searches and mountain or cave rescues for variety, but the majority of our rescue work is when we look for a missing person.  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!).  As volunteers, there’s is not a requirement that you go on a particular mission -- members respond as they are available. 

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 Executive Director, and ask for an application. Once you complete the application and background checks, you can 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).

Most of our meetings and training sessions are open to prospective members interested in joining, although some sessions are limited to AMRG members only. As a prospective member, you may attend up to 5 traings before you have to decide if you want to apply for membership or not.

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.  To be a voted in as a Probationary Member you must: 

  • Attend at least one training or field exercise  

  • Complete the required background checks
  • Read the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Training Standards, 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. 

Sustaining Membership is available for those who want to participate or help the team, but not respond to missions.For instance, lawyers or CPAs who help out with the Group’s administrative work and who attend meetings on a regular basis can be Sustaining Members, even if they’ve never set foot in the woods. 

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 Operational Member or higher). AMRG CQs may wear our uniform shirt and jacket. Being Callout Qualified is required to have voting rights withing the team. To become CQ, you must:

  • Be a Probationay member for at least 3 months

  • participate satisfactorily in AMRG's New Member Orientation training, which covers the role of the CQ, AMRG policies and procedures, our alerting and dispatching system,  personal equipment, short-term survival, search tactics, and personal safety

  • satisfactorily complete a least one field training or exercise, demonstrating the physical ability to participate in SAR activities, as well as the ability to work within a team based organization
  • successfully pass a criminal background check

  • complete the following online courses:
  • obtain the proper personal equipment:

    • appropriate clothing and footgear

    • water bottle of 1 or 2-liter capacity

    • 5 large plastic leaf bags

    • headlamp (preferred) or flashlight, and second light source

    • compass (orienteering type preferred)

    • waterproof pen/pencil and notebook (keeping your regular notebook and pencil in a zip-lock bag is adequate)

    • daypack

    • food for 48 hours

    • lighter, waterproof matches and candle, or other fire source

    • knife

    • personal first aid kit

    • whistle

    • two pairs of latex or plastic exam gloves

    • leather gloves 

    • eye protecton/goggles

    • Hi-visability Orange Safety Vest

Operational Member.  AMRG Operational members meet the MRA requirements for competency as a ground search and rescue techincian. To become an Operational Member, 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 an external standard written and practical test (either NASAR SARTech II, ASRC FTM, or DCNR FTM), and then, at a Group business meeting, receive a favorable vote for Operational Member status.  you must also have a current First Aid and CPR card.

Rescue Member level has stricter and more extensive standards than Operaional Member, which reflect the member's ability to undertake leadership roles in the field and supportive roles in search management and 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.

Higher  Rescue Specialist standards go beyond the Rescue Member 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 Rescue Member 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 IV playing largely supportive roles in the mission base and Search Manager I is being prepared to lead the largest SAR responses.

Canine Technician certification is another specialty certification open to members who reach Rescue Member. It requires an appopriate canine partner, one- to two-year commitment with weekly trainings for you and your dog, and a recognized external certification recongnized standards. For more information, see AMRG's Canine Standards.

Please talk to any Group member if you have questions.  Business meetings are the first Tuesday of each month, at 6:30 PM in the second-floor administration conference room (room 2191) at UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. Parking for AMRG meetings is free in the UPMC Mercy garage, bring your parking ticket into the meeting to be validated.  Some summer meetings are held outdoors in a city park; call first.


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