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PSAR Program

The objective of PSAR (Preventive Search and Rescue) is to educate the park visitor about the hazards and risks associated with hiking, climbing, camping, and swimming in Yosemite National Park.

PSAR Mission

  1. The PSAR volunteer's mission is to educate visitors about potential hazards in Yosemite with a focus on personal safety, responsibility and making good decisions.
  2. The mission does not include enforcement of park regulations.
  3. PSAR strives to prevent SAR situations and responses requiring additional NPS resources if at all possible.


Maintain and expand out relationship with NPS as a valued partner by setting the standard for professionalism, training and performance by which all other PSAR volunteers, organized units or individuals, are measured.

Why we do this...

Cal-ESAR Standards


For those of you that have never worn the uniform of an authority figure in public before you are about to have an eye opening experience.

When you are in uniform you are representing Cal-ESAR to NPS and NPS to the public.

Park visitors commonly identify us as ‘Rangers’ and we are likely to be the visitor's only “Ranger” contact during their stay. Accurate or not, that implies a very large and real responsibility to live up to that image. The visitor’s perception is their reality.

Reputations that are decades in the making can be damaged in moments.

  1. In uniform with tan ESAR shirt or yellow unit t-shirt & unit hat. (General appearance is neat and squared away... if you need a referance look at any NPS Ranger)
  2. Remember the manners that dad & mom taught you... universal politeness and respect at all times for all visitors and peers are minimum standards.
  3. If you were a Boy Scout…Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Cheerful, etc. is the way to go.
  4. When you take a break keep in mind the public thinks they are paying us. (ex:A cat nap in clear view of public is not the way to go)
  5. We don't "Rambo up" with large tactical knives and inappropriate gear strapped to our scares the tourists :)) 
  6. Language- No offensive language and certainly no F bombs on the trail.
  7. Absolutely no alcohol consumption or use of illegal substances of any kind while in uniform and in the park. (Calif. pot laws do not apply in's federal land)

How we talk about ourselves and what we say when park visitors ask ......are you a ranger?
"No, We are a volunteer search and rescue unit for the California Office of Emergency Services. We assist the Park Service ranger staff prevent SAR incidents by helping visitors make good decisions, and we're part of the first responder team when emergencies happen."

Training Requirements & Certification

  • Active status with unit and Associate level certification or better
  • Complete PSAR cert class, two 8 hr. shadow missions and PSAR Cert test. Here is link to certification test
  • Current Medical training: Basic First Aid w/ CPR – minimum req or better. (First Responder, WFR, etc.)
  • NPS Volunteer Service Agreement 301a on file with NPS. (+ parent consent if under 18)

Visitor Messaging

The overall theme we want to communicate to the visitor: Self-Responsibility & make good decisions! 

  • Mr./Ms. Visitor...You are responsible for yourself. Be prepared. Be aware of your surroundings (weather, time of day, sunset, fitness level of yourself and others in your party, etc.) Make good decisions. Unless it is a case of life, limb or eyesight a helicopter is not coming for you!... and even then it doesn't fly at night or in bad weather.

Talking Points:

  • Stay on the trail, stay on the trail, stay on the trail...
    • Stay away from moving water (It's VERY cold, you can’t swim in aerated water and it's especially high early in the year)
    • Never shortcut trail switchbacks
  • Hydration (what are your early signs of dehydration?)
  • Snacking - light, easy-to-digest, salty (to replace salts lost from perspiration)
  • Leave a travel plan with a trusted person
    • Route/destination
    • Time of return
  • Carry your 10 essentials (emphasize adequate water, rain shell, insulating layer, flashlight/headlamp)

Cal-ESAR PSAR Field Operations

Areas of Operational Focus

  • Mist/JMT trail corridor from Happy Isles to Nevada Falls
  • Panorama Trail, Glacier Point to Nevada Falls.
  • Yosemite Falls trail
  • Mirror Lake


  • Regardless of the trail, teams should plan to be at the high point of their assignments at approximately 3:30. Accidents tend to happen late in the day when hikers are tired and on their way down to the Valley. It is much easier to respond downhill than to hike back up.
  • Members will be assigned as Team Leads according to their medical certification and PSAR experience.  Whenever possible a Team Lead will have a medical cert of EMR, WFR or higher.
  • Our top priority trails are Mist to Vernal,  Mist & JMT to Nevada, Yosemite Falls. This priority is determined simply by the historical accident frequently and pattern on those trails.

Our Tasks

  • When we're the on trail we are ‘411’ for all things Yosemite related.
  • Interact with visitors to help them determine an appropriate activity based upon their preparedness, abilities and desired destination or goals
  • Inform visitors of dangers/hazards and limits based upon location, time of day, weather forecast, trail conditions.
    • Swimming or wading above falls or rapids
    • Scrambling on slabs or outcroppings
    • Cutting trail switchbacks
    • Identification of trail dependent dangerous “hot spots”
  • Attempt to verbally persuade visitors to reconsider their activity.
  • Document visitor contacts- very important for NPS PSAR and Cal-ESAR. Check link for document below and pick up "clicker" at Yose SAR office.
    • Standard contact:  directions, hiking advice, logistical questions, park policies and natural/cultural history
    • Notable contact: first aid provided, interventions, separated parties, off trial hikers, plan changes based upon advice given, visitor assist.

Hours of PSAR Operation:

  • Generally 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Our customers are usually not out in numbers before 9:00. Business picks up from mid AM to early afternoon when hikers start heading up, and the early bird (and tired ones) head down the trail...Half Dome hikers coming down JMT.
  • This does vary by trail.  If you’re covering Yose Falls or Nevada Falls you’ll want an earlier start to compensate for the longer, tougher climb out of the Valley. Panorama is a 8 mile hike, considering traffic you’ll want to get a ride to Glacier Point so that you can make it to Nevada Falls by ~ 2:00 PM and back to the Valley by 5:00ish

Check in / out with YOSAR office

  • This is not necessary for unit operations on holiday weekends. If non holiday, sign in / out at start / end of day on white board at YOSAR office. YOSAR office is behind the Visitor center /museum area.  


  • Our radio communications are limited to our frequencies... 155.12 and 155.22
  • Monitoring the Sentinel frequency is fine, but only if specifically called on this frequency or under truly life threatening circumstances, and cell phone communications is not available, should you ever transmit over this frequency.
  • For holiday weekends when Cal-ESAR is operating as a unit the daily briefing will cover the internal unit communications plan.

Transportation within the Valley

  • Valley traffic is usually a bear. (get it :) ) Here are the ways to mitigate it.
  • Yose Falls Trail - Walk to Swinging Bridge, cross bridge and meadow to Camp 4.
  • Mist / JMT / Mirror Lake trail heads-
    • Bring a bike and ride it.
    • Car pool with the team
    • Take the bus
    • Drive- If you drive to Mist/JMT you can park on the access road behind the Happy Isle bus stop. Park at the handicap area a few hundred yards up the road. Place your unit ID on your dash and even better have SAR magnet signs on your driver’s door.

Cal-ESAR PSAR – non-holiday visit Process

  • Member must be PSAR Certified, operate in a minimum team of 2
  • Login and sign up on Cal-ESAR web site / PSAR section
  • Solo missions by adults on Mist/JMT, Yosemite Falls, 4 Mile, Mirror Lake or Ok. Solo missions must sign in/out at Yosemite SAR office.
  • Any backcountry PSAR mission must have a signed Wilderness Travel Permit signed by our NPS ranger contact, and check out and in with Yosemite Dispatch before leaving the valley.
  • Youth members must be accompanied by Adult PSAR Certified members of the unit on any PSAR mission.
  • Reservation will be arranged for Yellow Pines campground, the more advance notice the greater your chance of getting space!!
    • You’ll get confirmation of space at Yellow Pines and a gate pass before you're cleared to go.
    • Check in with camp host when you arrive and as you depart. Be sure he see's the campsite you use is spotless as you leave.
    • In no circumstances should a adult depart Yellow pines leaving youth overnight in the camp.
  • Members can bring immediate family and close friends to share their campsite as long as extra camping or parking space is not required. Family and friends can accompany them on the trail as long as they do not distraction your attention from the public. (a independent spouse or friend can be fine, a small child is a no go) Members must clear bringing guests by Cal-ESAR leadership before arrival at Yellow Pines.
  • Do some good and enjoy the valley!

If a Emergency Situation Develops

  1. Assess the situation and communicate to the Cal-ESAR IC, unless
    1. The emergency involves a subject in the river (under no circumstances should you attempt a swift water rescue)
    2. CPR is in progress
    3. Cal-ESAR IC is not available,   
  2. If any of these situations contact Yosemite Dispatch directly (911) via cell phone or radio with the following information
    1. Location
    2. Incident type (missing child, person down, fire, rock slide, etc.)
    3. Reporting party info
      1. Name
      2. Phone
      3. If relevant, vehicle description and where parked
  3. Scope of incident
    1. Number of injured or involved subjects
    2. Severity of injuries, if any
    3. Size of fire / rock slide / etc.
  4. Your plan for reaction to the incident
  5. Maintain visual contact with incident or reporting party
  6. Provide aid if safe and reasonable to do so
  7. Mitigate expansion of the incident if practical
  8. Trail block / interviews


  1. Gas- gas up before you enter the park! Their is only one public gas station in the park... the Chevron station on Rt. 120 at Crane Flat ...and do not depend on it, multiple times it's been out of gas on busy weekends. Find gas before you get to the park and then top off at Chevron when you get in the park. You'll be really glad you did when something unexpected comes up.
  2. Food- top off yourself if you're driving in late. If you're coming in on Rt. 120 (or if Rt. 132, take 49 N at Coulterville to 120) stop at Priest Station Cafe...great burgers and open until 8:00. Then make the last 90 minute dash to our Yellow Pines campsite.

Valuable PSAR Info & Resource links...

  1. PSAR sign up pages:    Memorial Day PSAR sign up     July 4th PSAR Sign up      Labor Day PSAR Signup      Ad hoc Summer PSAR of your choice signup (on Hold)
  2. Park Gate PassThis will be updated for each holiday weekend.
  3. Yellow Pines rules- campsite locations & bear rules. Bears aren't violent, but they will take your tent or car apart if they like what the smell, or to find out if the like what they smell!
  4. "Ken's secret passage way to Yosemite Valley"- Directions to help you avoid the worst of traffic to the valley.
  5. Unit Pocket Roster- Handy for comms. 1/2 sorted by first name, 1/2 sorted by unit ID.
Maps and FAQ resources:
  1. Valley Map- - big picture of valley roads, campgrounds, major facilities.
  2. Vernal Fall / Half Dome Corridor trail map- A must have for Mist / JMT trail assignment. Good idea to lightly laminate so you can fold and put in pants cargo pocket. You'll be using all day.
  3. Clark Point cutoff photos / Trail distance and time chart. (Good idea to print and use as backside of Vernal Falls /Half Dome map above)
  4. Half Dome Map- Handy to have as a supplement to Corridor map.
  5. Vernal Falls land marks- remember you're the 411 for visitors on the trails. Has elevations of landmarks and LZ locations.
  6. Yosemite Hikes- A excellent find/contribution for your 411 kit from Wes Ayers!
  7. Valley hiking trails- All the popular spots. Thanks Michael Walker!
  1. Visitor contact tally form: check back for this before weekend.
  2. PSAR mandatory Pack list- Travel light, but prepared to take care of your self and a subject for hours, not days.
  3. Emergency Directions and checklist- Hopefully you'll never need, but "Be Prepared".
  4. Yosemite PSAR Ops document: Copy of material from this site- Handy reference
  1. SAR magnetic signs for your car- these are your parking pass for spots that are no parking, "water tank' area, employee area across from Camp 4, etc . This version is recommended because their size and shape fit bumper areas and are easily seen by a Ranger ahead or behind you.
  2. Showers- Go to Housekeeping campsite in uniform and they will give you a towel and free shower. Closes at 10:00 PM