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Volunteering for a SAR team

Discussion in 'Search and Rescue (SAR)' started by Kimster, Jun 10, 2015.

  1. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member


    Have you ever helped a search team? What was your experience? What do volunteers do? How can we make a difference when a search is going in our community?
    Jenny and Oriah like this.
  2. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    Is SAR volunteering all about walking in the brush? I'll bet there's a lot of other duties for people who aren't able to be on their feet for long periods of time.
    EmBee, Jenny and Oriah like this.
  3. ce8pc

    ce8pc New Member

  4. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    Hi ce8pc!

    Jenny likes this.
  5. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    I'm no SAR expert by any means, but I've helped with several searches. Honestly, it depends on if the volunteers are being coordinated by LE / an actual SAR team or by the family / friends. The organization can be very good, to downright awful. Unfortunately, sometimes the families just have absolutely no guidance or no idea where to begin such a thing, they just want to get out there and look. It will definitely also depend on the size / number of volunteers. But anyway, in most cases, searchers are usually split up into groups and sent to different areas, again depending on the search. Sometimes it's easy walking, though a field, and sometimes it's more difficult terrain. Can sometimes involve horses, dogs, etc., but if you have no experience with those you won't be placed in those groups. Usually you will go to your assigned area with your group, walk through it as best you can to "clear" it, looking for anything at all. (Never touch anything if you find it!) And then you'll head back to the base.

    The last search I was on, there were lots of people who wanted to volunteer, but weren't able to be walking around a lot. One man simply brought his BBQ and cooked food (all donated) all day for the searchers. That was much appreciated, let me tell you! Another woman volunteered to do free child care at the base for anyone who wanted to search but couldn't find other childcare options. Another woman coordinated all of the searches, sending out different groups as they arrived at the base, and keeping track of where had been searched already and what still needed to be done. One person showed up one morning, asked what the group needed, and just simply made a coffee run for the weary searchers in the early group.

    Whether you can search or not, I highly recommend being part of a SAR group if possible. It can be very rewarding. But it can also be very trying and difficult at times. If that's not something you think you could do, even moral support is great. Swing by the search base with a $3 case of water and just say thank you.

    Looking forward to hearing some other experiences as well!
    Jimmy, EmBee, Jenny and 11 others like this.
  6. believe09

    believe09 Well-Known Member

    Expect to provide identification of some kind when you sign in. You may be asked to sign confidentiality agreements as well, so keep that in mind. If the search efforts result in something that becomes part of a criminal proceeding, you may be deposed or asked to give a statement.

    Many many people helped to search for Caylee Anthony, for example, and people in certain grids on certain days were questioned by the defense team-it's always a good idea to have the big picture when you volunteer to search :)
    EmBee, Jenny, Yoda and 6 others like this.
  7. Oriah

    Oriah Well-Known Member

    Great and accurate posts, SheWhoMustNotBeNamed and believe!
    SAR work has many, many facets- and needs many different types of assistance. And as believe mentioned, in many cases- be prepared to be identified. All searches and search groups are different, and have different requirements depending on how they are organized; whether or not they are for profit or non-profit, volunteer based, professionals working in different areas of expertise, working only through LE or not, etc.
    Some require state background checks to be considered for participation, some require federal background checks, some- none at all. Before you join a SAR team or group, make sure you do your research into how the organization is run, from finances, to on the ground or in a CC work. Like all jobs (even volunteer) the group you choose needs to be a good fit for both you and the group.
    EmBee, Jenny, Yoda and 6 others like this.
  8. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    Being involved in a volunteer search is an amazing experience for those who want to serve others. The team where I served was very specific about not sharing details, so my perspective will come from personal issues in regards to preparation and misc. insights that were shared by my team leader, who is a long time certified SAR.

    First of all, read up on things to bring with you. As mentioned above, each search is different and although the one I attended was organized very well, I personally wish I would have brought gloves and a cane of some sort. SAR used a ski pole which was purchased for two bucks at a thrift store. I did wear tennis shoes, but had hiking boots in my vehicle just in case. I didn't need them. I wore a light jacket that I didn't mind if I got it ruined, and thick jeans. I saw one searcher had an issue with ruining her clothes during the search, so be sure you don't wear anything you wouldn't want ruined. I had a light backpack and carried water. My SAR leader said to always have snack bars too, and gave me one. They also said to have a whistle, which I happened to have on my key ring! While I'm not an athlete by any means, I do work out at the gym a couple of days a week and still it was a workout. So make sure you know ahead of time what kind of an area you might be searching in and whether you can handle it physically. If you don't think you can, let the organizers know ahead of time and ask them if there are other needs where you can serve.

    Lunch isn't always provided, I was told, but the family in our case provided a LOT of food and I am grateful! With everything they are going through, it was nice of them to make sure no one went hungry. One thing that was a bit awkward is that there are not usually restrooms and weren't any in my experience. If using mother nature isn't going to work for you, then check that out ahead of time. One searcher I talked to said she brought a doggy bag along.

    All in all, I'm REALLY glad I went and would do it again! As has been reported in the MSM, the search I attended was one where Klaas Kids was involved. They were well organized, informative, professional and oh so kind. The people there are volunteers and not doing it for themselves, but for the victims and families. That should tell you what caliber of people you'll be meeting. :hero:
    Yoda, EmBee, Jenny and 6 others like this.
  9. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    I'm already adding something about clothing! I did get really hot toward the end. My leader said you want to dress down a notch before going out, so I did end up taking off the jacket and felt a lot better in a Tshirt. :)
  10. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    Adding to it again.

    The SAR leader said it's really important to bring any meds that you are required to take just in case. And if you are a diabetic, you need to inform the organizers ahead of time.

    If anyone has questions, please ask!
  11. Jenny

    Jenny Active Member

    On your cell phone have a photo of the missing person so that when you bump into dog walkers etc. along the way you can stop and inform them about the missing person.

    'Open mind, wide net' is a great saying.

    Even though the missing person may not be identified as despondent - read about despondent person behaviour and include that in your search. https://www.dbs-sar.com/SAR_Research/despondent.htm I'm sorry to say this - but when searching, look up.

    Despondent people tend to go to familiar, peaceful places (such as the woods or large body of water).

    The last two searches I was on, both missing persons had taken their lives just outside of the SAR search areas -- both within a few hundred metres of the search. Once the official search is off and you would like to search on your own, use the buddy system and make sure everyone knows where you will be. (The last search was in a complex terrain under very harsh winter conditions).

    One family friend's mother had dementia and went missing from her senior citizens home. She was found kilometers away on the doorstep of her former family home (She died of hypothermia.)

    When you encounter large areas of private property, you could leave a flyer in their mailbox with a request to search their property for anything unusual.
    Yoda, EmBee, Takeitfromme and 4 others like this.

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