by Laura Morrison

Searchers cannot be effective if they don’t know where they were, where they are, and where they are trying to go. “Without your brain, a map is a piece of coloured paper, a compass is a glorified magnet, and a GPS is a waterproof battery case.”

Navigation I — Basic Navigator
In a SAR operation a basic navigator must be able to accurately lead his/her team through a landscape with any terrain and vegetation cover, and with variable weather and lighting conditions. Every member of a team in a SAR operation should be, at a minimum, competent at the basic navigator level.

Navigation I course outline — 15 hours

  • role and responsibilities of navigator
  • introduction to maps
  • legends: man-made and natural features
  • working with scale and distances
  • contours and basic landforms
  • UTM grid reference co-ordinates
  • the compass
  • basic field navigation
  • bearings and back bearings
  • declination
  • basic map and compass navigation
  • diversion (offset)
  • resection (triangulation)
  • basic route planning
  • introduction to night navigation

Navigation II
Navigation II is recommended for all FSAR team leaders, FSAR search managers, and any member who wishes to gain additional skills. The program consists of six modules designed to improve basic wilderness navigation proficiency, and provide additional tools to help navigators deal with complex navigation scenarios. The modules do not have to be taken in order.

Module Title Contents location & duration Prerequisite
1 Coordinate systems latitude/longitude, legal survey system (classroom, 4 hours) none
2 Night navigation Grid references, bearings, field navigation, pacing and communication with point person (field, 6 hours) Nav 1
3 Landscape navigation Landforms and topographic maps (field, 8 hours) Nav 1
4 Intermediate map & compass navigation Triangulation, pacing, distance & bearing, multi-leg navigation (field, 8 hours) Nav 1
5 GPS orientation Background & history of GP system, set-up, using, maintenance, limitations, relating GPS to topo maps, datums, coordinates, bearings (classroom, 3 hours) Nav 1
6 GPS navigation Practical exercises: integrating GPS into map and compass navigation, setup, find location, enter waypoints, determine route, follow route, deviate from route (field, 8 hours) GPS orientation