Search Operations

Search Operations

A. Briefing / Assignment

This section in reality cover three distinct items; Briefings, Team Assignment, and Debriefings. Depending on the size of your operation this could be 1-3 or more Staff members. In this section, we will cover the basics of all three.


Generally, there are two types of briefings given to team members. The daily / general briefing and the team briefing. Both of these are important for various reason and they may contain some of the same information, but they do each have a specific use and need.

Daily / General Briefing
Each day regardless of if a volunteer previously volunteered they will need to attend the daily briefing before being assigned onto a team. This briefing contains information about the missing person, safety messages, weather, important information, and updates.

These are generally done in a group and can be at a scheduled interval such as every 30 minutes or when you have a certain amount of people. It is important though that you do not want volunteers waiting too long to get onto a team as they may get frustrated, bored, and could leave.

Briefings are sometimes given by a family member of the missing person, a community leader or other types of high profile person. This is helpful in showing the volunteers thanks for the support and service.

These briefings should only be 5-7 minutes long and cover the following topics;

Thank you! It is important to make sure that the volunteers time and help is valuable and appreciated.
Missing Person details; Age, Sex, Height, Weight, Hair and Eye Color. If any clothing description is available that is great. You should have a large poster of the information and a picture displayed for everyone to see.

Investigation integrity messaging; It is absolutely imperative that volunteers understand that should the come across ANY potential evidence that they do not approach it or touch it. It is up to them to decide if the evidence should be called in right away or just reported during the debriefing (You may wait to report a baby doll that’s not mentioned in any of the information, but would call in clothes matching the missing persons last clothing description.)

If they come across the missing person they may choose to have only one member approach carefully to check for signs of life but with disturbing as little as possible. They should also have a Team Member or the Team Leader call 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Never go onto any private property without permission

Volunteers should not risk their own safety or put themselves into dangerous situations and use more than common sense, When in doubt wait and report it in debriefing if there is an issue completing a search.

A daily weather update. Make sure that volunteers are ready for the elements such as heat, rain, snow, storms, or other concerns.
Phone numbers or communications information for the Search Center, Law enforcement, and Tip Lines as applicable.
Important information and updates.

Once the volunteers have had the daily briefing it should be checked off on the Volunteer table. If the person doing the briefings is unable to enter the information they volunteers should be given some type of note, small sticker on a shirt, or ticket that can be shown to the person doing Team Assignments.

Once volunteers have had the initial briefing the staff member that briefed them will mark them off on Airtable which will set them as an available volunteer. This is done in the Volunteers table and Registration Verify / Briefing view. The lower group is volunteers that have had ID verified. The last column is for the Briefed checkbox. Once selected the volunteer will automaticlly move from the screen and be marked availabe.



This is the point where the registered and briefed volunteers come together with the assignments that have been created to form teams. It is important to note that each Team is a single mission and not a specific set of volunteers. You may have some groups that go out on several teams together but each assignment is considered a new team. We will start off with an overview of the views:

Assignment Table Views

  1. Map Entry – Used to create new Maps / Teams
  2. Map Status – used by Mapping to determine incomplete maps and availability. 
  3. Search Assign / Briefing – These are ready to have volunteers assigned.
  4. Search Team Board – Shows all teams that are currently active, or returned from assignments.
  5. Return / Debriefing – This is the view used to complete the debriefing of teams.
  6. Staff Board – Listing of active staff and position they are working in
  7. Team Cards – (Not Used) Experimental View
  8. Database – (Admin Only) Master database view of all fields unsorted, unfiltered or grouped

Assigning Team Members

To assign members to a team you can use a couple of methods. Which one is used will vary on your preferred workflow, and circumstances of your operation. We will cover the most often used one but there are others that can be done as well.

  1. Use the Assign / Briefing view of the Assignments Table
  2. Choose a Team from the available listings. These are grouped by size to give an idea how many volunteers would be assigned. number
  3. Go to the Volunteers table and select the Available Searchers View. You may also have Volunteers at the Dispatch Area tell you there names to be assigned. 
  4. Select available volunteers by using the Teams Field and then search for the Team ID number. Remember to always add at least one Team Leader. Once you assign them to a team they will move from the view.

There are actually quite a few ways that you can add volunteers to any team. As you become familiar with the system you will learn what ways work best for you.

Team Briefing and Dispatching
This briefing is slightly different for each and every team as it’s specific to what they will be doing. We need to give the team leader a copy of the map, and team information.

1. Open the team record entry
2. Select the small drop-down arrow and the print or send record. You can use the Team Leaders email if they can access it on thier phone. You could also show them the information or print the record.

This is the reason that you need to be able to print at least 100 pages each day as that will cover 50 total team assignments. There is a way to work around by Sending Records as Email.

Before you send the team on their way with the assignment be sure that you have done the following:

  • Make sure everyone on the team knows who each other are.
  • Identify the Team Leader and verify cell phone number
  • Describe to them where they will be going, and what they will be doing
  • If a Search Team there are a few general types of searches (These may or may not be part of the Map description)
  • Door to Door showing missing person flier & letting people know the situation
  • Active search where you are looking through areas for suspicious signs, evidence or out of place things or people.
  • Line search is when you all line up at arm’s length and walk together covering grid areas.
  • Answer any questions

Once the Team is Briefed and ready to go send them on their way and then mark them as Dispatched in the Assignments this will move them from the Assign / Briefing view and onto the Assigned Teams view.


Once a team returns to the search center they need to be debriefed. We ask that all team members take part in the debriefing, however in some cases, this may not be possible. The team leader must be debriefed. The purpose of the debriefing is to determine if any information that may be valuable to the investigation or search was located, to assure the team returned safely, and to verify the area had been fully searched or needs reassignment.

Ther staff member conducting the debriefing will use the Return / Debriefing view. If the Teams check-in at the Check / Out Desk on return that staff member will add the time to the returned column.

Debriefings should take place in a quiet secluded area. It is important that the information is kept from the public, media, and others as we do not want to compromise the investigation or create false rumors. You will want to take note of any information that is gathered using the Debrief Notes field or other methods. A complete Debriefing process may be added to a future update.

Did anyone on the team locate or see anything unusual or that seemed out of place? This could be items, persons, or other things.
Were you able to complete the entire area assigned to the team? If not what areas were not able to be searched?
Were there any other issues that need to be addressed?

These are just an example of some questions that should be asked during the debriefing. Once the team is done with the debriefing then you should mark it off in the Teams Table and select the correct status. If the map was not completed leave a comment for the mapping team to read that explains what areas need to be checked still, or why certain areas were not able to be searched.

Once the team is debriefed that can be checked off in the box which will automatically move the team to Returned, and change all team members to Returned / Available

After the debriefing team members can be checked out or be assigned to a new team. Be sure to also thank them for their time and help. Once a team is marked as debriefed all of its members will be marked as available automatically.