Urban Search and Rescue Markings

There are two major types of search and rescue markings, the FEMA markings and the INSARAG markings. Both are used by search and rescue teams to mark homes before and after building sweeps are conducted. Search and rescue teams would be sweeping homes to find casualties after disasters and to conduct mandatory evacuations. The type of marking used depends on the geographic location and the origination of the teams conducting the sweeps. Most places in the US would be having sweeps conducted using the FEMA system, whereas NATO and coalition countries would be using the INSARAG system. This may change if search teams are working together, or in countries they normally do not operate in. The markings are almost always put near the entryway with spray paint, large enough to see from a distance.

FEMA Markings

FEMA markings are easy to distinguish from other marking systems because they are done in an X pattern. The top of the X is the time and the date. Clockwise, to the right, is the list of any hazards present in the house searched. The bottom of the X is for the number of survivors and bodies found in the home. The last area to the left is the search teams identifier. The FEMA marking X is surrounded with a box if it is advised to not enter the house due to hazards.

INSARAG Markings

INSARAG markings are placed in a box with a circle surrounding and line through it. Hazard information is placed above the box, with team info and the start and stop time of the search inside the box. Victims are listed on the left and right side of the box, with survivors on the left and the deceased on the right. Victims with injuries or other notable issues are placed below the box. 

INSARAG MarkingsCredit: TruePrepper

Why You Should Know Search and Rescue Markings

Now that you know how to read search and rescue markings, you may be asking yourself why you should know them. In the event of a disaster where the markings are used, you can read peoples houses to determine how many survivors/victims were from each house. This can let you know if friends are safe. It can also let you know who is doing the sweeps, when they did them, and about how long it takes them to do a sweep. This is important information if you are looking to avoid confrontations or mandatory evacuations. Knowledge is power, and urban search and rescue markings provide enough knowledge to possibly help you out in the next disaster you face.