Training as a search technician: Part 2

2 July 2019  |  News, Training & Events

This is the second in our series written by new trainee Dave Hughes.

Continuing my training blog, the time an evening session with talks from both the police and ambulance service as well as an overview of the broader search and rescue framework across the UK.  Never having been involved in anything remotely like this before, some real eye-opening stuff; more people go missing than I would have thought, Wiltshire Search and Rescue is regarded very highly for search skills and professionalism and we could really do with a few more ambulances!

The fact that Lowland Search & Rescue is mentioned in the same breath as Mountain Rescue or the Coastguard (as well as the main emergency services) brings home the importance of the role.  Apparently the AA doesn’t count.

Really useful session – and I still can’t believe that it is entirely voluntary and self funding.  I take my hat off to all the existing members of Wiltshire Search and Rescue


Could we be looking for you?

3 August 2017  |  News, Training & Events
Wiltshire Search and Rescue red jacket

Wiltshire Search and Rescue Operational team on a search exercise

If you’d like to become part of the team then please come and meet us!

We’re holding a new members’ information evening on 27th September at the Cheese Hall in Devizes between 1930 and 2130.

Read up about joining and then email to register your interest.

Full press release below

Could we be looking for you?

Wiltshire Search and Rescue needs volunteers!

Vital search and rescue volunteers are needed by Wiltshire Search and Rescue ( to continue the important work of supporting the police in looking for and helping the county’s vulnerable and missing people.  More volunteers are needed to ensure the team can continue to provide a high level of assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week so an information evening has been organised for Wednesday 27th September in Devizes for interested people to come and learn more.

A recent search for an elderly man with dementia took place over three days and we were successful in finding him and ensuring he was taken to a place of safety. After the search his wife had this to say about Wiltshire Search and Rescue, “Knowing that you were out looking for him gave me the strength to carry on. I am so grateful to you all for what you did and I feel like this is my lucky day.”

Wiltshire Search and Rescue’s members, who range from teachers to delivery drivers, are all volunteers who receive the essential training needed to help save the lives of anyone from small children to elderly people suffering from dementia.

Established since 2000, the organisation is holding an information evening at the Cheese Hall in Devizes. Starting at 1930 on 27th September, the event aims to showcase the great work that the search and rescue team does every year, and will allow potential volunteers to get a taste of the scale and variety of the organisation.

Chair of Wiltshire Search and Rescue, Adrian Sawyer, encourages everyone with an interest in helping the team to come along and learn more. “You don’t need to commit many hours a month but our volunteers make a huge difference to the families of the missing people. Our work, alongside Wiltshire Police, been commended by the families of the people that we support and we do it because we really can make a difference. In an average year, we’ll be called out about 50 times, giving over 10,000 hours of our time to help the people of Wiltshire.”

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, “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.”

Membership Officer, Cris Wiles, adds, “When we get the call from the police, it is vital that searchers are on the ground quickly, especially when bad weather makes the risk to the missing person even greater. If you are looking for a truly rewarding volunteering opportunity, and want to help save lives, then we’d love you to come to our event in Devizes. You’ll get a chance to hear from the team about our roles – everything from searching in water to dealing with a medical emergency – and work out where your skills and experience could fit.”

There are several roles within Wiltshire Search and Rescue but what is most important is that volunteers are motivated, committed and outgoing. Full training will be given so no experience is necessary. Roles range from Search Technicians who will take part in the search and rescue operations, through to supporting team members such as fundraisers, administration and maintenance.

Every volunteer will receive the appropriate kit and be welcomed to a professional team where you can make good friends, explore the outdoors and be rewarded with the satisfaction of supporting your county and making a vital difference to the most vulnerable members of our community.




Notes to editors

Wiltshire Search and Rescue’s new members’ information evening

Wednesday 27th September


Cheese Hall

Town Hall

St John’s Street



SN10 1BN


If people are interested in attending they should email


New Members’ Information Evening 15th March


Fully operational members on an exercise on the Marlborough Downs

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 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

20 February 2017  |  News, Training & Events  |  , , , ,

“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.

Casualty in a basket stretcher

I’m safely in that stretcher!

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.

Team members helping

Moving across rough ground, barbed wire and into the woods

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.

Team member waiting for medical help to arrive

Team member waiting for medical help to arrive in the woods

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

4 February 2017  |  News, Training & Events


Wiltshire Search and Rescue red jacket

Wiltshire Search and Rescue Operational team on a search exercise

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.


New Members’ Evening

22 January 2017  |  News, Training & Events  |  , , ,



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

New members’ information evening 19th October 2016

7 October 2016  |  News, Training & Events


We need you!

We are holding a new members’ information evening in Devizes on Wednesday 19th October for anyone interested in signing up to be a volunteer with the organisation. Starting from 19:30, the evening will give you the opportunity to hear from existing team members about what they do, what they love about their volunteer role and how they help some of the most vulnerable people in the county.

No experience is necessary and all that is asked of our volunteers is that they’re committed, motivated and passionate about helping.

During the information evening, you’ll have the opportunity to speak to a number of volunteers and work out where your skills and interests would be best suited. We’re looking for operational volunteers – people to be trained up as Search Technicians – and, just as importantly, volunteers to help with other tasks such as administration or fundraising. There are no age limits to volunteering so come and find out more.

If can’t attend but you’d like a chat with someone at the organisation, then please do drop our Membership Officer, Cris, an email and he can tell you more about what volunteering as a member entails:

Details of the information evening

Wednesday 19th October from 19:30

The Wessex Room, The Corn Exchange, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1HS


SJP Big Walk 2016 – The Jurassic Coast

This weekend, 7-8 May 2016, WILSAR marshalled St James’s Place Foundation’s annual Big Walk. This year’s event saw 160 walkers making their way along 32 miles of the Dorset Jurassic Coast from Weymouth to Durlston Head over 2 days. The weather was lovely, the views breathtaking, the climbs challenging and the descents even more so!

WILSAR have been assisting SJP Foundation with organising and marshalling the Big Walk for the last four years. Previous locations have been The Lake District, Wiltshire’s White Horse Trail and Hadrian’s Wall. The Foundation and SJP staff raise hundreds of thousands of pounds each year for charities and WILSAR are proud to be a part of this by supporting them.

To find out more about St James’s Place Foundation visit


Ups and downs The formidable Jacob's Ladder Offering support

Start of Day 2  You want me to go up there?! 160 walkers and a teddy!Cliff!

Tail End Charlies, sweeping up the rear.

WILSAR’s “Tail End Charlie’s” keeping ’em going and trying not to leave anyone behind!


Exercise Ironman – Sunday 6th March 2016

Wiltshire Search and Rescue are proud to announce Exercise Ironman.

Months of planning have gone into organising this multi agency, high risk missing person search scenario. Its purpose is to ensure in the event of a large missing person search in Wiltshire, the organisations involved can coordinate with each other in a rapidly changing situation. The exercise will also increase each organisation’s knowledge & understanding of one another’s capabilities.

Examples of this kind of missing person search include:
Sian O’Callaghan    Swindon, 2011
April Jones              Powys, 2012
Tom Edwards          Chippenham, 2013
Mikaeel Kular          Edinburgh, 2014

Who’s coming?
WILSAR (approx 30 members)
Fire & Rescue Service – attending with Technical Rescue team and vehicles from multiple stations.
Ambulance Service – specialist vehicle from Bristol.
Wiltshire Police
Local Authority- Incident Officers attending.
Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue (BLSAR)
Hampshire Search and Rescue (HANTSAR)
Surrey Search and Rescue (SURSAR) – attending with a 4×4 and RPAS air support.
Dorset Search and Rescue (DORSAR) – Sending an Observer.

The exercise will start at 09:00 in South Swindon beginning with Police Enquiries and WILSAR being requested approximately 30 minutes later. It is expected to be finished by 14:00 (depending on how quickly the missing person is located!)


Ex Ironman

Join us in January 2016!!!

WILSAR are recruiting again!

As you slowly recover from the Christmas festivities and start thinking about what you’re going to do in 2016 that is worthwhile and rewarding, how about considering volunteering with Wiltshire Search and Rescue?

We’re looking to recruit motivated, committed and outgoing volunteers to become part of our Team. We need operational members to help us provide support to the Emergency Services in the search for missing vulnerable people. This can be anywhere in Wiltshire and occasionally assisting other Lowland Rescue teams in the surrounding counties too. We are also recruiting support team members to assist with other vital roles such as fundraising, maintenance, admin or welfare.

WILSAR Flood TeamAs a new member you will begin Team life as a Search Technician but have the opportunity over time to advance to Team Leader and Search Planner. Other skills can be achieved such as Bank Search, Flood Response, Swift Water Rescue, Bicycle Search, Tracking, Missing Person Behaviour, Navigation Awards and First Aid qualifications.

All of our members are 100% volunteers; limited kit is supplied but personal equipment, fuel and training is self-funded. A level of commitment to callouts, training and fundraising is expected throughout the year. You will however become part of a professional team where you will make good friends, explore the outdoors and get rewarded with the warm feeling that you are helping people in need.

To become operational applicants will be expected to attend regular training sessions over two months, leading up to a weekend residential Search Technician course in March where they will meet and train alongside trainees of other teams from around the UK. You must be over 18 with your own means of transport and be fit enough to walk 5 miles in under 2 hours. Due to the nature of Lowland Search and Rescue you will also be required to complete a Police background check.

A New Members’ Information Evening will be held in Devizes on the evening of 12th January 2016. Anyone who would like to attend to find out more about volunteering with WILSAR and meet some of the Team should send an email to for more details. Please give details about yourself and why you’d like to join WILSAR. Full training will be given so no experience is necessary but please include any relevant skills or experience you have such as previous SAR work, outdoor skills, first aid training, administrative, fundraising or other charity work etc.


Group pic