ICE-SAR (Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue) is a voluntary organization in Iceland that provides search and rescue services throughout the country. It was founded in 1937 and is funded through donations and membership fees. ICE-SAR has a network of over 5.500 volunteers trained in various search and rescue techniques, including rescue diving, mountain rescue, and urban search and rescue. 

The organization also operates a fleet of vehicles and aircraft to aid rescue efforts. In addition to providing search and rescue services, ICE-SAR also works to educate the public about safety and preparedness.

The organization is responsible for responding to various emergencies, including natural disasters, accidents, and missing person cases. It works closely with other emergency response agencies in Iceland. It is highly respected for its professionalism and dedication to saving lives.

What should you do if you get lost in Iceland?

ICE-SAR. Photo: ICE-SAR

You should contact the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) for assistance if you get lost in Iceland. You can reach ICE-SAR by dialing 112 from any phone in Iceland. This is the number for the Icelandic emergency services and will connect you with the appropriate authorities, including ICE-SAR, who can assist with search and rescue efforts. 

It is essential to stay calm and provide as much information as possible, including your location, any injuries or medical conditions, and any other relevant details. If you do not have a phone or other means of communication, you should try to find shelter and wait for the rescue.

The Safe Travel App

It is always a good idea to let someone know your itinerary and expected arrival time before embarking on a trip. That way, authorities can be alerted if you do not arrive as planned. It is also a good idea to carry a map, compass, and other navigation tools, a first aid kit, and other supplies when exploring the outdoors in Iceland.

ICE-SAR has an app you can download for iOS and Android, and you can find it easily on their website. In it, you can get weather notifications and register your itinerary. So, if you get lost and do not have a chance to let anyone know, ICE-SAR will be pinged, and they will start searching for you. Check out our blog on the Best Apps for Iceland.

Once the app is installed, you can create a profile and enter your travel itinerary and emergency contact information. The app also includes several features to help you stay safe and informed while traveling, including:

Emergency alerts: receive notifications about emergencies and natural disasters in the area.

  • Weather forecasts: check the weather forecast for your location or any other location in Iceland.
  • Safety tips: get safety and preparedness tips for various activities, such as hiking, driving, and camping.
  • Location tracking: share your location with your emergency contacts or allow ICE-SAR to track your location in the event of an emergency.

The History of the ICE-SAR 

The origins of ICE-SAR can be traced to 1918 when the Westman Island Rescue Team (Björgunarfélag Vestmannaeyja) was established. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, extreme weather, and snow avalanches are part of what Icelanders have to deal with. Unlike most countries, there is no army in Iceland, and the Icelandic Coast Guard is small, it was essential to have a group of people willing to help and rescue. 

There are just under 100 rescue teams all over the country who are ready to help. ICE-SAR gets about 1800 calls a year or three a day. In addition to providing search and rescue services, ICE-SAR also works to educate the public about safety and preparedness. The organization offers a range of educational programs and resources, including first aid training, wilderness survival courses, and emergency preparedness information. ICE-SAR also works closely with other emergency response organizations, including the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Icelandic Red Cross, to coordinate rescue efforts and aid during emergencies.

As they are a non-profit organization, they wholly rely on donations. They hold fireworks sales before every New Year’s Eve, which is a big part of their funding operation. It is also possible to support them outside of that time.

ICE-SAR got the first rescue ship and rescue helicopter in Iceland. They are pioneers in traffic safety matters, the Ships Reporting Duty, and the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre. These are only a few accomplishments that ICE-SAR and its parent associations have achieved – for the benefit of all Icelanders.

The specialist training undertaken by rescue groups has resulted in exceptional knowledge of the various conditions known to occur, both at sea and on land. 

If you have an accident…

Photo: lydia harper lids_harper, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you have an accident in Iceland, get lost, or get stuck, do not hesitate to call for help. It is free of charge because we want you to be safe. As beautiful as Iceland can be, it can also be a bit dangerous. Mother nature is keen on making sure people won’t forget her. But we also ask that you listen to the authorities when there are weather warnings, for example. They are put for everyone’s safety.

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