Frequently Asked Questions

If you are thinking about volunteering for Wiltshire Search and Rescue please read the following before you apply.

Packaging and extraction

Trainees learning how to safely handle a casualty

1. How many hours will we need to train for?

There are a number of mandatory training sessions which usually take between two and three hours to complete.

These include:

  • Basic life support – to equip you with the knowledge and medical skills to care for victims of life-threatening illnesses or injuries until they can be given full medical care at a hospital.
  • Water awareness – understanding and assessing the risks surrounding searching in water-based environments such as rivers, canals etc
  • Proof of fitness – To walk five kilometres in under two hours (or you can provide an equivalent proof of fitness such as a marathon certificate)
  • Using the Wiltshire Search and Rescue database and how the callout procedure is run
  • Using a radio

There is a two-day residential course where all the Search Technician skills are taught and refreshed, and where your official qualification will be taken.

There are also a number of training sessions that will support your ongoing learning but which you do not have to attend as the skills will also be learned on your two-day residential course

  • Navigation
  • Area searching
  • Callout procedures
  • Team exercises

2. What other training is available?

There are opportunities to progress from the entry level Search Technician through to Search Planner and Search Manager, and to learn more in-depth skills such as lost person behaviour, working in floods and fast-flowing water, and tracking.

Route and path search

Trainees’ debriefing after an area search session

3. Can you tell me about the vetting/criminal record check?

All trainees are asked to complete a Non Police Personnel Vetting form. This is so that Wiltshire Police can be confident that the operational team members are suitable to search for missing and vulnerable people.

4. Once trained, do we work shifts or are we on-call?

Wiltshire Search and Rescue works on an on-call system and all operational members are required to use the D4H database to signal whether they are on or off call. Every operational member is required to attend a minimum of four call-outs per year and it is important that skills are kept up-to-date. Every operational member has to refresh their Basic Life Support qualification, their proof of fitness and their water awareness skills every 12 months. It is also expected that members will support with fundraising opportunities, supporting new trainees and helping to plan exercises as and when they can give the time.

Night searching

Trainees watching a simulated search and rescue at night

5. Once trained, how many hours do we have to commit?

As many as you are able to. On average, the team is called out 50 times a year to search for vulnerable and missing people. It is also expected that members will support with fundraising opportunities, supporting new trainees and helping to plan exercises as and when they can give the time.

There are a mandatory set of sessions that you will need to attend per year. These are:

  • Four live call-outs
  • All of your core skills qualifications
  • Two fundraising events.

6. Is there an age limit?

We accept trainees from 18 years old and there is no upper age limit. Providing you are capable of keeping up your skill and fitness level, everyone is welcome to volunteer. There is a proof of fitness walk that asks all operational members to walk five miles in under two hours on an annual basis.

 

Water awareness

Trainee Zoe learning about water awareness

7. Do we need any special qualifications?

A full UK driving licence is advisable and access to a vehicle is necessary. All other training will be given.

8. When and where does the training happen?

Most training takes place on Wednesday evenings from 19:30 – 22:00 at the Wiltshire Police HQ in Devizes and on Sundays between 10:00 and 15:00. The exercises take place in and around Devizes.

 9. What do Search Technicians actually do?

A Search Technician is qualified to Lowland Rescue National Standards and needs to be competent in key aspects of search including navigation, radio operation and first aid.

Search Technicians have the responsibility of turning up at a search with the appropriate clothing and equipment, to be fit and well enough to go out and search for the missing person, to listen to instruction from their Team Leader, and support the other members of the team.

While out on a search, Search Technicians will work in teams to locate the missing person. They must listen to instructions from the Team Leader who will relay information from the Search Planner and Search Manager. Search skills, communication and the ability to take instruction will all be used on a search. It is also important that every member of Wiltshire Search and Rescue is respectful to members of the public, especially family and friends of the missing person, that they meet on a search.

Searching

Fully operational members on an exercise on the Marlborough Downs

 10. I can’t commit to becoming a Search Technician. Are there any other roles?

Wiltshire Search and Rescue relies entirely on fundraised income so anyone that would like to join to support with fundraising will be welcomed. There are also administrative roles such as graphic design, web development and funding application writing. If you have skills in business, communication or fundraising, then we’d love to hear from you if you have time to volunteer.

11. Do we need to sign a contract?

There is a volunteer agreement that we ask everyone to sign that signifies a voluntary contract between us but is not an employment contract. It sets out what is expected and how Wiltshire Search and Rescue will support you.

12. I work full-time. Can I still join?

Yes. Most of our volunteers work and fit in their operational duties during the evenings and weekends. You are able to signal when you are available and on-call through our database. You are never expected to turn down your primary employment or family commitments to support Wiltshire Search and Rescue but there is mandatory training that needs to be completed each year in order for you to remain operational.

13. Do we get paid? What about expenses?

There is no salary as all positions are voluntary. Expenses are not paid so you need to be responsible for your own fuel, food, drinks and outdoor clothing. All operational members will be given (free of charge) a branded jacket, polo shirt and cap but boots and outdoor clothing are the financial responsibility of the members. There is a personal cost to attend the Search Technician course (maximum £70 and fuel costs).

If you’re still interested in applying, then please email membership@wilsar.org.uk.