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.
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.
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.
Tuesday 3rd January 2017
Search resumed at 18:30 for missing lady in Box, Corsham.
Search supsended at 01:30 pending further Police investigation.
Kind thanks to all who brought snacks and drinks to the search area on this cold evening.
UPDATE – Thursday 5th January 2017
Sadly, at 10:45 this morning, the body of a woman was found who Wiltshire Police believe to be this missing lady. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.
Monday 2nd January 2017
Team placed on standby by Wiltshire Police at 18:55 to search for a missing lady in Box near Corsham. Team deployed at 19:30.
Search suspended at 03:00 pending further Police investigation.
During the search, three WILSAR members were first on-scene to a road traffic collision. A motorcyclist had left the road and crashed into a hedge/ ditch on a fast A road, and was trapped under his bike. Luckily his brake light was not smashed, and our volunteers spotted the red glow in the darkness.
All Team members receive training in casualty care. Prior to two ambulances arriving, they were able to use their skills and experience to perform a primary assessment, free him and start inital treatment whilst Wiltshire Police provided scene safety.
Friday 30th December 2016
Team called out at 10:10 to search for a missing man with a mental health condition in the Westbury area.
Team stood down at 18:10 when missing man made contact with Wiltshire Police.
Tuesday 27th December 2016
Team called out at 21:20 to assist Wiltshire Police in the search for a missing man with a mental health condition in the Trowbridge area.
Missing man was located safe but cold by Police and Team stood down at 00:15.
Saturday 17th December 2016
Team placed on standby at 15:40 by Wiltshire Police to search for a missing 20 year old man in Trowbridge. Police located the man prior to Team deployment at 15:55.
Friday 9th December 2016
Called out by Wiltshire Police at 17:10 to search for a missing despondent female in the Oaksey area near Malmesbury.
Team stood down at 19:20 when Police were informed that the lady had returned home safely.