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.