I used to think you had to be 18 in order to participate in search and rescue. But now I know that assumption was wrong. In fact, there are whole teams made up of youth volunteers.
Take Long Beach Search & Rescue, for example. From their website:
Long Beach Search & Rescue "provides young adults with an opportunity to serve the public during emergency situations while encouraging them to explore career possibilities in the law enforcement, fire protection and emergency medical services fields. Long Beach Search & Rescue is an award-winning Learning for Life Explorer Post co-sponsored by the Long Beach Police Motor Patrol and Long Beach Firefighter's Associations." All applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 18 and maintain at least a C grade point average in school, among other requirements.
There's also Explorer Post 2002, a youth Search and Rescue team sponsored by the Sonoma County, California, Sheriff's Department. After finding this team, I then did a search for Explorer Search And Rescue (ESAR) and found youth SAR teams all over the country, including but not limited to Arkansas ESAR, Washington ESAR, and King County ESAR, the first youth-based search and rescue team in the nation, established in 1954.
Some states, such as New York, don't accept SAR applicants who are under 18 years of age. However, organizations such as Boy Scouts of America and Civil Air Patrol do have units around the country that have Search and Rescue training tracks that minors can get involved with. Explorer Search and Rescue (ESAR) teams are made up of teens--boys and girls--in the Learning for Life program, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America, who are trained and deployed for search and rescue missions.
Here are news stories about two young and accomplished SAR volunteers:
Arizona Teen and her Search Dog Pass National Certification: After completing her ground searcher certification, 16-year-old Taylor Lane of Sonoran Search & Rescue submitted an application to the Paws of Life Foundation's program to pair canine handlers with dogs. Lane and her search and rescue dog recently passed NASAR's Canine Sartech I evaluation.
To the Rescue! A young search-and-rescue-volunteer comes to the aid of lost or injured hikers in northern California: Now 18, Tamsen Bell started with Marin Search & Rescue when she was 14 years old, the youngest age at which one can join. When Bell was 16 years old, she took a lead role in a SAR mission involving a 60-year-old hiker who fell 50 feet off a cliff and landed on a mountain ledge, breaking part of her neck and suffering other injuries. Bell then slid down a steep part of the mountain to get to where the injured woman lay. She then examined the victim to find out what kinds of injuries she had suffered and decided the best way to transport her to safety.