Abstract Gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection (GC–MS) coupled with solid phase micro-extraction as pre-concentration method (SPME) was applied to identify and quantify volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by human skin. A total of 64 C4-C10 compounds were quantified in skin emanation of 31 healthy volunteers. Amongst them aldehydes and hydrocarbons were the predominant chemical families with eighteen and seventeen species, respectively. Apart from these, there were eight ketones, six heterocyclic compounds, six terpenes, four esters, two alcohols, two volatile sulphur compounds, and one nitrile. The observed median emission rates ranged from 0.55 to 4790fmolcm−2min−1. Within this set of analytes three volatiles; acetone, 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, and acetaldehyde exhibited especially high emission rates exceeding 100fmolcm−2min−1. Thirty-three volatiles were highly present in skin emanation with incidence rates over 80%. These species can be considered as potential markers of human presence, which could be used for early location of entrapped victims during Urban Search and Rescue Operations (USaR).