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 training 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 with 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.”