Being part of a mixed urban and rural Search and Rescue unit means that occasionally we get our hands dirty in a different way….
Cris, our Membership Officer, tells us more:
“After my last search with our Chair, Adrian Sawyer, when on our way back from the search we managed to find a young motorcyclist parked in a hedge (not classified as the missing person – he’d come off his bike), it has always made me think of what could be.
“Little did I know then that on the 16th of March at 11:30pm I would also be engaged in a major rescue operation involving three police cars, two quad bikes and a tractor. On a busy stretch of road (the A360 between West Lavington and Tilshead), a herd of cows had made a break for freedom. I think they were heading for the pub in West Lavington but as it was already last orders and the cows didn’t have either Hi-VIZ or torches, I decided it was best to help them see the errors of their escaping ways.
“As the only Hi-Viz I had in the car was my Wiltshire Search and Rescue one, we can now legitimately say that we’ve assisted a large, bovine rescue operation and the rural crime unit (pretty sure the cows could be done for trespass, breaking and entering, and attempting to take intoxicating liquor while being under age). After some interesting encounters with the beasties over the next couple of hours all the cows were located and back in their barn with a stern telling off from the farmer.”
Wiltshire Search and Rescue – here for vulnerable and missing people, and cows.
We’re holding a new members’ information evening on Wednesday 15th March at Devizes Town Hall between 1930 and 2200. This is an ideal opportunity to hear from operational team members about what it’s like to volunteer for us. All are welcome but please email email@example.com to confirm your place and please read
our Frequently Asked Questions before making a decision!
If you are interested in attending then please arrive in good time so that the presentation can start at 1930. We do require all new volunteers to attend this session. Our training schedule means that we cannot join volunteers unless they attend our new members’ information evening.
We look forward to meeting you on 15th March.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you out of here” are exactly the kind of comforting words that you need when you’ve fallen in a dense, wooded area and have broken your leg. And they’re exactly the words I heard from the professional, comforting team at Wiltshire Search and Rescue this weekend.
It had started as a normal Sunday exercise. I’ve been part of the team since October, supporting the organisation with voluntary public relations support (speaking to the media and making sure our Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn are updated). As part of my immersion into Wiltshire Search and Rescue, it became apparent very early on that for me to fully understand the workings of a search, and what happens when we find vulnerable and missing people, I needed to learn how to become a Search Technician. So along with about 20 other new trainees I’ve been spending every Wednesday evening and most Sundays learning the amazing array of skills needed to be a professional Search Technician. We’ve learned basic life support, water awareness, how to search a route and path, how to area search, how to use a radio, casualty care, using throw lines, what kit we carry, how to search efficiently, how to respond to a call-out and yesterday, we were putting it all into practice above Devizes at Roundway Hill.
My team of five were searching a wooded area for our ‘missing’ person – a lady called ‘Julie’ who was known to be depressed and who had been missing for nearly 24 hours. It was a common scenario that the team would be called to – in fact in 2016, Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteers were called out 51 times, giving over 10,000 hours of voluntary time supporting Wiltshire Police and occasionally other county’s police forces too. We were spread out over a steep area, looking in front, to the side and behind us all the way through the wood. The terrain was quite challenging but the Team Leader made sure we were all safe which is always our first concern, as we can’t help our missing person if we’re down a team member because of a sprained ankle….
Then the call came over the radio that I needed to get back to the control vehicle immediately. After a quick consultation with the other team members, it was agreed that I shouldn’t go back on my own so another member came with me, leaving the three to continue the search for ‘Julie’.
What none of the 35 others on the exercise realised was that I was about to become the casualty! Planned in advance to test our team’s advanced medical skills and their understanding of how to ‘package’ and ‘extract’ a casualty, I now had to walk away from the route and ‘break’ my leg.
We called my fall into the control van – an incredibly sophisticated vehicle where our Search Planner and Search Manager sit and liaise with the police about our ongoing search. They reassured us that help was on the way, and sure enough within about 10 minutes it was our medical lead who came striding through the woods with kit, team members and his comforting words.
The situation, and my condition, were assessed using the Primary Survey which works through a series of checks to assess danger, response of the casualty, injuries and next steps. I was quickly comforted by team members as our Medical Lead got to work finding out what had happened. Throughout I felt in completely safe hands, and each step was explained to me as my boots were removed and my entirely fictitious broken leg was put in a splint ready for me to be moved to a stretcher and carried out of the woods to the waiting ambulance.
The Team’s care and concern was evident but what was most apparent was the calm professionalism of all involved. I was moved from the ground into an emergency blanket (like a huge orange duvet) then the basket stretcher was moved underneath me, before the team moved me out of the wood. Even though I weigh 12 stone the small team managed to expertly manoeuvre me over the rough ground, through a barbed wire fence and across a ploughed field before they walked to the road to meet the approaching ambulance.
It was an incredibly interesting experience and one which most of us will hopefully never have to live through. But in order to understand what it must be like to be an injured, scared, missing person it was invaluable. Thank you Wiltshire Search and Rescue for everything you do and I’m extremely proud to be part of the organisation.
If you’re interested in joining Wiltshire Search and Rescue as a volunteer then please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions.
In 2016 Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteers were called out 43 times by Wiltshire Police to help locate vulnerable and missing people, including saving the lives of two people they found. The volunteers were also asked a further eight times to assist with neighbouring Search and Rescue teams, bringing the total number of call-outs to 51, almost one a week, throughout 2016.
In recognition of the hours of searching that Wiltshire Search and Rescue’s team has given for free to their local community, Inspector Paul Saunders from Wiltshire Police, had this to say in thanks, “The initial stages of a High Risk missing person investigation are crucial in terms of getting the right resources in the right place as soon as possible. The welfare of the missing person is paramount. As well as utilising specialist police resources, such as Air Support, Police Search Advisor (PolSA) and Dog units, it is imperative that we contact and deploy Wiltshire Search and Rescue as soon as we are in a position to do so.
“This opens up more options to the officer in charge of the search on the ground and greatly increases the chances of finding the person in the quickest time possible, which is the ultimate aim of the investigation. Knowing that we can bring Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteers to standby at the start of an investigation and then move to callout as soon as we have some defined search parameters, means that the PolSA can plan the most effective search strategy under the circumstances.
“When you speak to a Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteer their pride in what they do and their dedication to their craft is tangible. Their willingness to be on call, at all hours of the day, for no reward other than knowing they have been directly involved in saving lives does them credit. Wiltshire Police is very pleased to be associated with them and look forward to continuing the close working relationship that exists between us.”
- In 2016 the team gave up 10,071 hours of their time to help missing or vulnerable people.
- If this was converted into an average police officer’s wage, it would cost the taxpayer over £180,000.
- For every hour that a volunteer team member spends searching for missing and vulnerable people, they spent another eight hours taking part in vital training or attending update sessions to ensure the smooth running of the organisation.
- Nearly 80 training events took place in 2016 including joint training exercises with the other emergency services.
- The most common areas that we were deployed to in 2016 were Swindon (15) and Salisbury (7).
Adrian Sawyer, Chair of Wiltshire Search and Rescue, added, “The statistics for 2016 show what a vital role we play in supporting the emergency services. Most importantly, vulnerable missing people that we help who need medical attention are given it by our volunteers, specifically trained to do this in an emergency situation. We directly helped to save the lives of two people last year who would have died if they had not been found and given lifesaving treatments by Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteers.”
Wiltshire Search and Rescue takes new trainee volunteers twice a year and puts them through a rigorous training programme before they go away for a weekend course to finalise their skills and to gain their Search Technician qualification. 20 current trainees are learning basic medical skills, working alongside experienced volunteers and expert paramedics. They’re also learning how to search, how to navigate, use radio communications and have undertaken a proof of fitness walk before they’re made fully operational. They will then be able to join the more experienced team members on live searches, on-call 24/7 to support when needed.
Adrian Sawyer commented on what it’s like to be a trainee, “The commitment is important and it’s not for everyone, but the amazing sense of being able to give something back to the community is what usually drives people through the rain, the cold and the evening exercises! When we’re out searching and we’re thanked by the family and friends of the person we have been called to help, all the hard work is immediately worthwhile. It’s an honour to be able to work alongside Wiltshire Police and to give the support that is needed at a time when it’s so critical.”
Charli Cumberpatch, a recruitment consultant, joined Wiltshire Search and Rescue in November 2016 because she wanted to make a real contribution, adding, “The training has been fantastic and everything we’ve learned so far has exceeded my expectations. Everyone in the team has been friendly and welcoming and there is a true feeling of everyone working towards a common goal, to help the missing person.”
Rob Owen, an enterprise wireless and routing and switching specialist, joined because he wanted to get his teeth into something, commenting, “As a family we loved geocaching, walking around the countryside looking for items so this feels like a more worthwhile version of that! I’m going to take personal satisfaction in giving something back. I’m no hero but being able to be there in someone’s hour of need is something that drives me.”
If you’re interested in joining our team then take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about what it takes.
We have a new members’ information evening taking place on Wednesday 15th March at the Cheese Hall, Town Hall, Devizes.
If you’re interested in becoming a member of the team then please read our Frequently Asked Questions page before applying. We’re always looking for dedicated, committed volunteers but before you contact us, take a look at what you’ll be signing up to.
Thursday 26th January 2017
Team placed on Standby at 21:00 by Wiltshire Police for a possible missing person search in Swindon.
Team weren’t deployed and Standby cancelled at 22:40 pending further Police enquiries.
Tuesday 24th January 2017
Called out at 05:30 by Wiltshire Police to conduct a search operation for a high risk missing elderly man with dementia in the Highworth area.
Fortunately the gentleman was found by the Ambulance Service and treated for hypothermia. Team stood down at 05:50.
Date for your diary – we’re holding an information evening for people interested in volunteering for us. It will be on Wednesday 15th March and if you’d like further details once they’re finalised, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 17th January 2017
Team’s assistance requested at 13:30 by Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue to search for a missing man near Newbury.
Stood down at 15:10 when the man was located and deployed members returned home by 17:00.
Sunday 15th January 2017
Team place on standby at 20:10 to assist Wiltshire Police with a missing female with mental health problems in the Lacock area.
Search Manager was deployed to the scene to liase with Police. Missing lady was located by police shortly after and standby cancelled at 21:15.