Hjálparsveit skáta í Reykjavík, or REY-SAR for short, is Iceland’s oldest land search and rescue team. It was founded by members of the Icelandic Scout Association over 80 years ago and has stayed strong ever since. These founding members had frequently been called upon in the previous years to assist authorities when their alpine and mountaineering skills were needed in incidents involving lost and/or injured people and they felt they needed to organize in order to maximize the effectiveness of their response, thus founding REY-SAR in 1932. The team has been one of Iceland’s largest SAR teams ever since. REY-SAR is and has always been a volunteer operation. Its members provide almost all the funding needed for the operation of the team via all kinds of volunteer work. This offers the team total autonomy when defining its goals, objectives and scope of operation.
REY-SAR operates on land with an emphasis on the following disciplines: search, rescue and medical. These three major disciplines are supported by ten divisions including first aid, mountaineering, search techniques, automotive, base camp and natural disaster response. REY-SAR also has a very effective winter first response including snowmobiles and a large snowcat. It owns and maintains a diverse fleet of trucks and vehicles, many of which have been extensively modified and adapted for use in SAR operations.
Each member of REY-SAR completes a rigorous 18 months training program that covers all areas of personal survival in the Icelandic wilderness and extensive training in advanced search and rescue techniques. All members are required to maintain their expertise by regularly attending training exercises and seminars.
The teams responds to about 40 incidents annually which range from basic weather-related assistance to long and arduous search and rescue operations all over Iceland. Its main area of operation is the southwest part of the country, but its resources are available for deployment all around Iceland, if needed. Over 100 volunteer members are on-call at any given moment, ready to respond 24/7 to all kinds of callouts from The Icelandic Emergency Alert Agency.