Aviation Emergency Services Program:
WSDOT is responsible by statute for the coordination and management of aerial search and rescue within the state. This includes coordinating aircraft for disaster response & recovery when requested.
(Authority: RCW 47.68.380 & WAC 468-200)
WSDOT accomplishes this mission by closely coordinating with all available resources and agencies, including the Washington State Patrol, Washington Emergency Management Division, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. We also use volunteer resources from Washington Air Search and Rescue, the Civil Air Patrol and county sheriff's search and rescue programs across the state.
The Aviation Emergency Services Program is operated by the WSDOT Office of Emergency Management. WSDOT Aviation provides funding and an aircraft for the AES Program.
WSDOT Aviation Emergency Services (AES) mission is to coordinate and manage aerial search and rescue (SAR) within the state. This includes:
- Coordinating all aircraft used in SAR operations requested through the Washington State EOC.
- Search and rescue activities involving electronic-signaling devices such as emergency-locater transmitters, emergency position-indicating radio beacons and personal-locater beacons associated with aeronautical use.
- Following up on reported sightings of distressed aircraft, reports of overdue aircraft.
- Coordinating aviation resources for disaster response and recovery.
This coordination and management of all aviation SAR does not include SAR operations conducted by the chief law enforcement officer of each political subdivision (RCW 38.52.400). When a downed aircraft is located, the incident responsibility becomes a land search and rescue operation under the direction and control of the chief law enforcement officer in whose jurisdiction the incident is located (typically the county sheriff).
At the request of local authorities, even for localized emergencies, the WSDOT aviation division will coordinate and acquire aviation resources as needed.