There are several Emergency Services areas that the Civil Air Patrol covers. The principal categories include Search and Rescue missions, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Services, and Air Force Support. Others, such as Homeland Security and Counter-drug Operations, are becoming increasingly important.
Civil Air Patrol is arguably best known for its Search and Rescue (SAR) activities. CAP now flies about 95 percent of inland SAR missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Outside of the continental United States, CAP directly supports the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. CAP is credited with saving an average of 100 lives per year.
CAP is particularly active in disaster relief operations, especially in hurricane-prone areas such as Florida, the Eastern Seaboard, and the Gulf Coast. CAP aircrews and ground personnel provide transportation for cargo and officials. Squadrons and Wings often donate manpower and leadership to local, state, and federal disaster relief organizations during times of need. In late 2004, several hurricanes hit the southeastern half of the United States, particularly Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. CAP was instrumental in providing help to areas that were hit. In addition CAP supports operations that are unique in nature such as the "Deep Water Horizon" oil spill where CAP aircraft from all over the country converged to support USCG, and State requested missions. CAP took over 100,000 geosynchronous color pictures in order to track the movement of the oil spill.
The Civil Air Patrol conducts Humanitarian Service missions, usually in support of the Red Cross. CAP aircrews transport time-sensitive medical materials, such as blood and human tissue, when other means of transportation (such as ambulances) are not practical or possible. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, all general aviation was grounded. The first non-military plane to fly over the destroyed World Trade Center was a CAP aircraft flying a blood re-supply mission.
CAP performs several missions that are not combat-related in support of the United States Air Force. Specifically, this includes damage assessment, radiological monitoring (particularly over areas such as Yucca Mountain), transportation of officials, communications support and low-altitude route surveys.