Day Of The Newbie



Many of our members have been SAR responders for a good few years, they’ve been on countless searches gaining vast amounts of knowledge and experience. However…. everybody has to start somewhere.

The following are two stories from the same search, the first is from one of our planners, although an experienced searcher, this was the first time planning on a live search since passing the training and assessment earlier in the year……


“As soon as the phone went, I knew it was a callout……I knew before I’d even opened the text message, I also knew of our 5 search planners, 3 of them were off call and on holiday. That left me and one other, if they weren’t available, it was just me…..planning……for the first time on a live search…..gulp!

My fingers hovered over the send button, I’d written the text confirming I was available but once it was sent I knew people would be counting on me, I’m not afraid to admit I was pretty nervous. After a few seconds my logical side regained control of my brain, I told myself that I would have to have a first search as a planner at some point, and, there was potentially someone out there who was having a far worse day than me and needed to be found. I hit send, within seconds the dispatcher who had text me was ringing my phone……the other planner clearly wasn’t available.

I didn’t live far from the RV point and ended up being one of the first to arrive, the Police Search Advisor (POLSA) was already there, I hoped out of the car and introduced myself. “Are you running things from your end?”, “Umm….Yes” I replied with all the confidence I could muster. As I knew the control van was still some time away, I set up a make shift control from the boot of my car. I had my laptop, a mobile printer and the brilliant mapping software that is Mapyx. The POLSA gave me my briefing and I immediately started to calm down, I’d done this countless times before in mock exercises and suddenly everything started to feel very familiar.

Lost person behaviour fascinates me, people are so different but yet so similar. We study various publications on the subject in our planners train20160625_102551ing and it amazes me that typical movements and behaviours for various groups of people can be predicted with almost uncanny accuracy. I’d classified our MISPER as living with dementia, this meant I now knew he was likely to follow a linear feature, for miles and miles if there were no decision points. I knew the distances from the paths that 75% of MISPERS in this category would be found in and I even knew the likelihood of our MISPER being in a structure or a woodland.

I poured over the map, trying to match the stats to what I could see on the ground and get my teams to the places most likely to give us a find. Quickly, with some input from the POLSA and my very experienced team leaders, I was able to put a plan together and get the teams out on the ground.  Now it was time to settle down, monitor the radio and, the most important part of being a planner, have a cup of tea!! 

We had quite a bit of help from our sister teams that day, both Bucks and Northants ended up sending planners to help if required and along with Essesx SAR they all provided some searchers….for this I am truly grateful, thank you guys!”



When you complete your training as a search technician and finally get on call, most searchers have to wait weeks before they can make a live search, for one of our newest members, it was a matter of minutes…….


“When you apply to join organisations such as Midshires Search and Rescue you expect to devote time, so I did! I had one last weekend of training that would hopefully get me active and on call. The Saturday composed of my last mock search whilst being assessed on my techniques, everything went well and my assessor was  happy with my performance. The Sunday was as simple as a 5 mile fitness walk with some of the team members followed by a casual lunch together…

Bright and early Sunday morning, I arrived ready for our fitness walk, the last thing I needed to do before the committee decided if I was ready to be on call. It was a great morning and I learnt a lot about some of the team who I hadn’t really had the chance to talk to before, we finished in good time and, brilliantly, just as the village pub was opening for the afternoon. This was far too good of an opportunity for us all to go in, grab a drink and a bite to eat.

So with meals ordered and some already starting to be served, everyone was chilled and having a good time. Just as the final meals arrived there was the resounding sound of phones going off, not thinking much of it I carried on eating until I heard the words “eat up lads, we’ve got a call out” . Once again I didn’t think much of it,  I still wasn’t on call. Then, a few committee members around the table proposed I joined the search, I didn’t know whether to be nervous or exited and in truth it was probably a garbled mixture of the two, I was given the RVP and was on my way.

On the drive to the RVP the mixed feelings continued to bounce around until I pulled into the RVP. I jumped out the car and the first thing that happened was me being told “get kitted up your going straight out wi20160625_114433th this lot” still with little idea what was going on I got kitted and was briefed on route to our search area, strangely the feelings I had been having vanished and at this point I felt very relaxed and in control of the situation as I knew what I had to do.

Having started about 2pm, the search was called off due to light and worsening weather about 9pm, by this time we were soaked and tired, having covered fairly high mileage on the search. Although the result was of nothing found, it felt good to have been out for that long and trying to do something to help in the situation, I am happy to say that in the days following this search the MISPER was found safe and well.”


Home in time for pizza…


High above us, the noise from the NPAS helicopter drowned out the usual sounds of a busy town. Over the radio we could hear other teams reporting that their routes had been cut off by the rising flood waters. My teams progress had also been halted by the burst banks and flooded fields. With the temperature dropping, the fast moving water still rising and the dark night, regrettably, my thoughts turned toward a less than positive outcome. We headed back to the car when our team leaders mobile beeped into life………



The day had started pretty normally for one of my weekends, up far too early for me, feed the dog, launch my kit in the boot of the car and head off for a days training with the rest of the search team. We spent a good few hours practicing in the river with our new water rescue sled, and, by the time it came to finish I was desperately looking forward to the pizza and chicken strip feast awaiting me at a friends house that evening.

The Mrs and I were just walking out of the house to our date with said friends when my phone went, before I could even open my mouth, she gave her usual eyeroll, shake of the head and muted smile. I’ve seen that look a good few times in the two years since I joined MSAR, I’ve come to the decision it means “Go! stay safe and don’t worry about the decorating, that can easily wait a bit longer!”. Judging by the quotes from very expensive decorators I’ve started finding on the kitchen side, I’m not sure I’ve entirely cracked the code, but I think I’m close!

I arrived at the RV to find our search planner and the POLSA (Police Search Advisor) working out the back of the planners boot – there hadn’t even been enough time to collect the control van! Very quickly I was part of a team tasked with the area just behind the MISPER’s house. High above us, the noise from the NPAS helicopter drowned out the usual sounds of a busy town. Over the radio we could hear other teams reporting that they’re routes had been cut off by the rising flood waters. My teams progress had also been halted by the burst banks and flooded fields. With the temperature dropping, the fast moving water still rising and the dark night, regrettably, my thoughts turned toward a less than positive outcome. We headed back to the car when our team leaders mobile beeped into life.

The helicopter had spotted something close to our position, a team member, out with the police reccying other search sectors, was already there and we may well be needed to assist. By the time we arrived, the paramedics were also on scene and it was clear we had an alive MISPER! Unfortunately, where he was had very tight access, was covered in brambles, was extremely unsteady underfoot and was in the pitch black. We train for stretcher carries but this one was going to be extremely tricky! I felt for those who would have to carry that stretcher and keep the MISPER as comfortable as possible…..”Matt, can you come and take a corner of the stretcher for us?”………Great!

After a carry that would match any normal assault course, the MISPER was placed in the back of an ambo and taken to hospital. I was now able to reflect on what we’d just achieved. Thanks to the great teamwork of the Police, NPAS, the ambulance crews and MSAR, a family would be getting their beloved relative home soon and it felt absolutely brilliant!! It more than made up for the wet searches up to my armpits in stinging nettles, only for the MISPER to be found in another county, it was worth the hours spent training in the last two years and even the nagging that the nursery wasn’t finished yet.

And I still made it home in time for pizza and the rest of a great evening (even if I know the plasterboard awaits me tomorrow)




“But there are no mountains in Hertfordshire……”

Whenever I mention I’m part of a SAR team (which is probably way too often), I get the same response, the same cock of the head, same slightly quizzical look and then that all too familiar phrase.

Truth is, you really don’t need a mountain to go missing. The people we go looking for aren’t normally fit, hill walkers that have got lost or injured whilst on an expedition. The people we help, often may not even realise they are lost. Of all our call outs, about a third are for people living with dementia/Alzheimer’s, another third is those who are despondent and may be at risk of harming themselves or committing suicide and the last third covers everything else.

In 2015, Midshires spent about 69 days searching for missing people (MISPERS) and countless others training. We have spent time searching our counties rivers, practicing rope work in areas with steep inclines and had a presence in nearly every corner of the two counties. We have trained with the police to learn about the behaviours of lost people, undertaken courses in wilderness first aid and even handed out heaters to vulnerable houses when a gas main ruptured. We have helped re-unite families with their loved ones and, when the ending hasn’t been such a happy one, at least helped provide closure for those left behind.

So they are right, there are no mountains in Herts and Beds, but there is an incredibly busy SAR team, committed  to help the police and our other emergency service partners 24/7 – 365Boat

If you’d like to join our team, and really make a difference in your local community, please get in touch and book your place on our next  SAR technician course running the 19th and 20th of March 2016