SAR in NH | Pemigewasset Valley Search & Rescue Team

Pemigewasset Valley Search & Rescue Team

Search and Rescue in New Hampshire

Carryout Photo
Search and Rescue Responsibility
The Conservation Officers of New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHF&G) have primary responsibility for woodland search and rescue in the state of New Hampshire. This includes land inside White Mountain National Forest with the exception of the Cutler River drainage on the east side of Mt Washington, where the US Forest Service has primary responsibility only during the winter months.

NHF&G maintains a specialized search and rescue team of 16 specially trained Conservation Officers but searches and carryouts often require more people than NHF&G can provide on its own. For this reason NHF&G relies on unpaid volunteer organizations, including PVSART, and other local resources to support these missions. A single callout may include NHF&G Conservation Officers, local police, fire, and EMS resources, US Forest Service Rangers, Appalachian Mountain Club hut and campsite caretakers, Army National Guard helicopters, Dartmouth-Hitchcock air ambulances, and members of one or more volunteer search and rescue organizations (such as PVSART).

Carryout Photo
Search and Rescue Funding
Since 1989 the costs of NHF&G's Search and Rescue efforts are funded by a $1 fee on all boat, OHRV, and snow machine registrations in the state (non-profit volunteer teams like PVSART do not receive any of these funds and are instead funded by donations). Rising search and rescue costs resulted in annual deficits in the Search and Rescue Fund which required NHF&G to tap funds from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and sacrifice their other responsibilities to make up the balance. The state of New Hampshire passed a law in 2008 allowing NHF&G to request reimbursement from persons whose rescue was determined to be the result of negligence to help recoup their search and rescue costs (volunteer teams have no part in this decision and do not receive any of the recovered funds). More information on funding for search and rescue is available at NHF&G's website.

In 2015 the state of New Hampshire, recognizing that on average about 60% of the rescues in the state are for hikers and climbers while only 14% of rescues are for the hunters, anglers, boaters, and OHRV riders who had been funding Search and Rescue up to this point, created the voluntary Hike Safe Card program. Hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and other outdoor users who have this card are exempt from liability for their rescue costs, even if they are determined to have been negligent, and all of the funds raised through this program go into the Search and Rescue Fund. Hikers and other outdoor users contributing to this program have helped to eliminate the Search and Rescue Fund deficit.

2021 New Hampshire Search and Rescue Statistics
NHF&G Search and Rescue Calls:182 missions
3,816 hours
137 calls for help assisted via phone
Missions Billed:19
Volunteer Search and Rescue Team Calls:89 missions
4,816 hours

Carryout Photo
Hiker Safety
We would like to remind hikers that, whether or not they have a Hike Safe Card, they are responsible for their own safety. Search and rescue activities are expensive, time consuming, and can put rescuers in danger. Please take the time to become familiar with the skills and equipment necessary to recreate safely in the outdoors so that you don't require a rescue. Activity that crosses the line into recklessness can still be charged by the state of New Hampshire, even if the subject holds a Hike Safe Card.

Proper clothing and footwear are critical for all hikes, and hikers should bring a headlamp, map, and compass regardless of how short of a hike they plan to take. Some hikers try to rely on smartphones for navigation only to discover, often at an inopportune moment, that most mobile mapping apps don't work without cellular signal and phones batteries drain quickly when they are in areas with no service (common in the White Mountains). Hikers caught out after sunset have also discovered that mobile phone flashlights are not very bright and also quickly drain the phone's battery, sometimes leaving them stranded in the dark without a way to call for help when the battery runs out. More information on how to plan your hike and what to bring is available on the website for the hikeSafe program, a joint effort between NHF&G and the USFS to educate hikers.

The links on our Hiker Info Page will bring you to much more detailed information on the proper skills and equipment to bring outdoors, trip planning resources, and other search and rescue organizations in New Hampshire.

Back to top

Search and Rescue Resources

Carryout Photo
Pemi Valley Search & Rescue is only one part of a much larger search and rescue system throughout New Hampshire. State and local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and other volunteer SAR groups all support each other when necessary to complete our missions. We also receive helicopter support to help locate and extract patients when necessary. The following resources are all a major part of this family and deserve your support.

Hike Safe Card LogoVoluntary Hike Safe Cards are available for $25 per person and $35 per family. Revenues from sales of the voluntary hike safe card go into the Search and Rescue Fund. People who obtain the cards are not liable to repay rescue costs if they need to be rescued. Otherwise, people who are deemed negligent may be charged by the State of New Hampshire for the cost of search and rescue efforts.

New Hampshire Outdoor Council LogoThe New Hampshire Outdoor Council provides funding support to agencies and organizations (especially volunteer organizations) which are involved in backcountry safety education and in search and rescue activities in the Granite State.

New Hampshire Fish and Game Search and Rescue Team LogoThe NH Fish & Game Specialized Search and Rescue team is part of the Department's Law Enforcement Division which has responsibility for conducting search and rescue missions within the woodlands and inland waterways throughout New Hampshire. The team consists of 16 specially trained and skilled Conservation Officers who respond to numerous diverse calls for search and rescue assistance throughout the state.

Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue LogoAndroscoggin Valley Search and Rescue is a volunteer SAR team covering the eastern White Mountains.

lrsarLakes Region Search and Rescue is a volunteer SAR team covering the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and the southern edge of the White Mountains.

Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team LogoThe Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team is a volunteer SAR team covering the Upper Connecticut River Valley and the western edge of the White Mountains.

Mountain Rescue Service LogoMountain Rescue Service is a volunteer SAR team based in North Conway, NH specializing in technical rescue services throughout the White Mountains.

New England K9 Search and Rescue LogoNew England K9 SAR provides, without cost, trained search and rescue personnel and K9s to the law enforcement agencies of Vermont and New Hampshire to assist in their efforts to locate lost and missing persons.

White Mountain Swiftwater Rescue Team LogoThe White Mountain Swiftwater Rescue Team offers the specialized technical skills, training, knowledge, and experience of the White Mountain whitewater paddling community to support the search, rescue, and recovery operations of federal, state, and local rescue agencies and organizations

Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol LogoThe Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol serves as part of the National Ski Patrol New Hampshire Region, patrolling Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines from March through the end of May for each spring skiing season.

Appalachian Mountain Club LogoAppalachian Mountain Club staff and facilities are often called on to aid search and rescue efforts. In many cases the first indication that a search and rescue effort is necessary may come as the result of an initial report reaching an AMC staffed hut or campsite. It's also likely that many search and rescue efforts are avoided each year thanks to the backcountry presence of AMC facilities and staff capable of sheltering and assisting hikers in need.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team LogoThe Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team provides both ground and air medical transportation services to the medical communities of Northern New England. DHART also responds to public safety agency requests for evacuation of trauma patients from scenes of accident and injury, and will transport to the closest Trauma Center in the region's five states. The DHART helicopter team is called to assist in searches, extract injured hikers, and quickly move patients to definitive care.

nhngThe New Hampshire Army National Guard medievac unit provides helicopter search, insertion, and extraction capabilities for both rescuers and subjects in support of search and rescue missions.

Back to top

Search and Rescue in the Media

The following media can help hikers who are interested to get a better understanding of search and rescue activities in New Hampshire.

Critical Hours Book CoverCritical Hours is a book, published in 2018, that provides a look at the history and current state of search and rescue in the White Mountains.

whereyoullfindmeWhere You'll Find Me is a book about a hiker that perished in the Presidential Range while hiking alone in winter conditions and the efforts of New Hampshire search and rescue personnel to find and recover her.

lasttraverseThe Last Traverse is a book about rescue efforts related to a hiking party that became stranded on Franconia Ridge in winter conditions and the efforts of New Hampshire search and rescue personnel, including PVSART, to find and recover them.

North Woods Law Title CardNorth Woods Law is a TV show on Animal Planet that follows New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officers as they go about their regular duties, including search and rescue missions with PVSART by their side.

infinitestormInfinite Storm is an upcoming feature film, due for release in March 2022, about a rescue performed by a PVSART member while on a recreational hike. Although the film embellishes the story, the core events of the film are based on actual events.

Back to top