Insights from a Bucks Search Tech Episode 2

Episode 2 – ‘What I’ve learnt and achieved since Joining Search and Rescue’

You can learn to do anything, your level of achievement however is down to 3 elements, effort, skill and courage.

Effort – It really is up to you.  You only get out of it what you put into it.

Skill – I could list out all the skills that I’ve learnt in my time in Search and Rescue, and it’s a long list.  It includes things that to be honest I never thought I would ever master when I first joined, like using a compass and map, the radio comms, helming a rib. We learnt ‘Lost Person Behaviour’, what I have learnt since is that our missing people haven’t read the book, they don’t all stick to script, so you have to be prepared for anything.

Skill development comes from practice, honing those skills over, and over again until they become the natural reaction in any situation. This routine is what we then default to in stressful times.  It also inspires self-control and fosters confidence within us.

Search and Rescue gives you far more than just the opportunity to learn new skills. It gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself and your emotional awareness. It taught me that it was okay to step out of my comfort zone, to challenge my courage.

Courage – Shortly after joining I had an opportunity to be a missing person ‘MISPER’ in a search exercise. Being alone in the woods for just over 90 mins, how hard could it be?  After 30mins I felt lost, my confidence left me, after a while things started to spiral out of control. I came out of the woods shivering.  At the time I believed I was just cold. It was not until afterwards I realised it was fear.  I was petrified in there. It was at this point I learnt to have the courage to face my fear and make the decision to overcome it. I realise for some this is not easy. I had locked it away in the back of my mind for years, almost in denial. The difference now was the realisation that I had a choice; with new skills I had more confidence; with the right support I had an element of comfort in doing something about it.  My fear was ‘the woods’, you’d have to question my judgement in joining a Search and Rescue team, or was this what drove me to join? I am now totally comfortable in this environment, for me this is a massive achievement.

I’ve learnt to ditch the guilt and put myself first. Only if I am at my best can I then help others. Through experience I’ve learnt what works for me and what doesn’t.  The more prepared and organised I am, less stress I have running out the door and the more I can concentrate on the job in hand.  Through practice and repetition, we can learn discipline, regime or routine, I now have a routine in place after a call out.  After that coffee when I get in, whatever time of the day or night, I make sure I prep my kit ready to go back out again.

I’ve learnt to reassess my sense of failure. Early on if I had been on a search and completed my area with no find, I felt I had failed. Truth is the value that this brought to the team was to confirm that the missing person was not in that area, and therefore they could eliminate it, and narrow down the areas of focus. I have also learnt that it is okay to ask for advice or help, and to accept that the diversity of the team is actually one of it’s strengths.

And finally, I’ve learnt to:

  • Trust my judgement
  • Take actions when they matter most
  • Don’t get lost if it all goes wrong
  • Talk to people about your feelings and emotions
  • Do something rather than nothing
  • Believe I can make a difference

 

A HUGE thank you to all in Search and Rescue for providing these opportunities and being so supportive as we learn to get through them.

Bucks Search and Rescue

‘Insights from a Bucks Search Tech’

Episode 1 – ‘Why I do what I do’

‘Why do I do what I do?’ sounds like a really simple question to answer doesn’t it?  Well believe me I have been asking myself this question for the last few months and I am only now at the point of understanding my real reasons for doing what I do with Bucks Search & Rescue. This piece won’t directly answer that question, but it will hopefully trigger thoughts and considerations in people, and that might lead to a better understanding of what drives a Search Tech to do what they do.

When I first joined the team, my response to that question was to tell people I was trying to fill the gap where once I spent every spare minute coaching soccer. Now I’m operational and having experienced the reality of being there when someone needs help, that response doesn’t seem to explain it properly anymore.  This led me to believe that there was something else driving me to do what I do every time a call-out comes, and the natural reactions and emotions that are triggered along with it.  I wondered if I was the only one who did not know what this need or reason was. Well, a few months later I find I was not the only one, but I might have been the only one admitting to wondering why.

I guess when you’re out in the middle of the night, in-between completing one search area and being assigned the next one, the cold, the dark and the tiredness leave us a little exposed, and the hard shell of a Search Tech can sometimes soften and we reach out for a little comfort, or some form of affirmation of our thoughts and beliefs.  What follows when these conversations start can lead to some of the most enlightening and unexpected moments for all involved.  As I thought most people realise and acknowledge why they joined the team, but trying to explain why they do what they do now, what really drives them to respond to call-out’s was not something they had even thought about.

It’s true, everyone has a story, even if they don’t think they do, or more commonly if you don’t think they could have. In some cases these stories, some recent, some personal, some going right back to childhood were the driving force behind us doing what we do.  For some these chats were the first time the reasons had been considered, realised, or understood.  It became obvious to me that the original reason for joining was different to their reason for doing what they do now they are operational.

There is some commonality in the reasons given as to why we joined the team.  Most talk about wanting something else, needing a challenge, a way to give back to their community, some needing an escape from work, for some it’s the outdoors that attracts them, some needing to get head space, for others it’s been a direct result of being personally affected, or being helped by a Search and Rescue team in the past.  There seems to be less commonality when it comes to what drives us to respond to the calls in the way we do, in fact that seems to be a much more deep-set reason, and as unique as each and everyone of us.

By the nature of our call-out’s they don’t follow any calendar, or schedule, they come through at any time of the day or night, in the wind or rain, on a Sunday or Bank Holiday.  The next time you see one of the Search and Rescue teams going out on a call, just take a couple of moments to remember that each of those volunteers has a story, a reason for being there and doing what they do.  They don’t all talk about it, I am sure some are not even aware, and some are in denial, but as long this incredible bunch of volunteers come together to reunite a vulnerable person with their family, you can be sure they do it for all the right reasons. They are part of the Lowland Rescue family, they are Search Techs.

As a Search Tech I know why I joined, and I now know why I do what I do every time a call goes out, and that understanding satisfies something in me that no paid role ever could. “In finding you, I found me” thank you.

Bucks Search and Rescue Tech

Dementia Action Week

BSAR CALLOUT: Missing person with Dementia

Who is available?

In the UK 1 in 3 people will develop Dementia.

When we receive a call out for a missing person we can never know what expect.

In most cases all we know initially is that the police have deemed the person vulnerable and high risk and require our search and rescue skills to help locate them. When we arrive at a search the information available regarding their age, illness and circumstance surrounding their disappearance is a vital tool to help us plan our search and act accordingly.

Dementia is one of the five groups of missing people that we search for. When we search for someone with Dementia we have a wealth of knowledge including statistics and past searches to utilise, however no two persons with Dementia are the same.

Dementia is a cruel disease that affects the brain, usually in elderly patients, leading to memory loss, change in mood and judgement, lack of understanding, movement and general difficulties in life.

From a Search and Rescue point of view, looking for someone with Dementia can prove to be very challenging due to their thought process, how they respond to obstacles and their confused state of mind. Those with Dementia experience tunnel vision, often moving straight ahead until there is a physical barrier or they are unable to carry on. If they do turn they are more likely to follow their dominant side e.g turning right if they are right handed. Many are unaware they are lost and won’t realise they are in danger. This puts them at a higher risk, as being more senior in years, they are more susceptible to slips/trips, hypothermia and infection so its very important for the team to identify these factors when out searching. Statistics like these are vital to help us search effectively. Our motivation and drive to find a missing person comes from the knowledge that there is a loved one waiting for a father, mother, grandparent or partner to return home safely and we will do everything we can to ensure a happy conclusion.

Why do people with Dementia go missing?

Six in ten patients with Dementia will wander. It can happen at any stage of the disease and there are many reasons including memory loss, confusion, stress, boredom or following past routines. Certain strategies can prevent wandering; providing supervision, identifying likely times of day that wandering might occur, carrying out daily activities and distractions. Reassurance can help the person when they are feeling confused and disoriented. If someone does go missing ask friends/family and neighbours to call if they see the person and call 999.

Why is Dementia Action Week so important?

This week encourages people to start to understand about the effects of Dementia both for those who directly suffer and those around them such close family members and how it impacts all of their lives. This week also asks people to start to a conversation with someone who has Dementia and The Alzheimer’s Society Website has got tips and advice on how to get the conversation started.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Society Website or call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 for more advice and information.

Bucks Search and Rescue telephone number: 0300 321 3216

Busy Start to the Year!

It’s been a busy start to the year for us here at BSAR!

Over the past 9 weeks our volunteers have deployed to assist Thames Valley Police in searching for high risk missing people 13 times as part of 8 separate incidents. One of these incidents is still ongoing.

We also deployed our 4×4 crews to assist Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust during the heavy snowfall in January.

Whilst all of this has been happening we have continued to train weekly and our committee has been busy doing all of the behind the scenes work that goes in to running a successful charity.
We have to raise around £20,000 per year just to cover our running costs and receive no government funding whatsoever.

If you would like to donate to BSAR or know of a company that would help us by hosting one of our collection tins please get in touch using contact form on the Contact page or make a donation by clicking on the red button on the left hand side of this page.

On the Water

During the Christmas break, the water team took the opportunity to gather members for some boat handling practice. It is important to keep competent with skills that aren’t put to use each and every week.
The thermometer read only 2 degrees. Visibility was almost as close to zero as the temperature and yet six team members donned their PPE and prepared for a day on the water.

Any water is potentially dangerous, these two conditions add to the complexity but ultimately excitement too. BSAR is lucky to have enthusiastic and experienced water team leads meaning we were able to practice through play pushing skills to the limit.

In fact it was great to learn how the boat responds if you get something slightly wrong. Lifting off the throttle when surfing down the crest of the wake converted our RIB into a submersible, something you would never want to happen near a rescue or safety situation. In a controlled environment with a skilled helmsman it brought both smiles and looks of panic across the faces of everyone.

This training couldn’t have as easily have been done without the support of Datchet sailing club. It was great to practice on a reservoir where buoys can be used to practice against with little chance of entanglement or bashing against other obstacles.

Radio Upgrade

In September our radio system had an upgrade. All the Lowland Recue teams in the Thames Valley Police area now have an enhanced ability to communicate with each other on our own digital, encrypted, secure network.

As well as mobile repeaters (transmitters) in our Incident Control Vehicles, there are static repeaters on telecoms masts across Bucks and the Thames Valley policing region that allow us to communicate and coordinate search and other emergency activity between the team members, team operations control and between teams, maximising the organisational and operational coverage across the region.

Pictured are the ICVs of Midshires, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Search and Rescue teams.

Navigation Training

Recently several new team members had their navigation skills assessed around the hills and woods of Buckinghamshire. Navingation is an essential part of a search and all team members are required to be competent navigatiors. We are currently training the team up to National Navigational Award Scheme (NNAS) Silver level.

 

Team Callouts

We are on standby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, ready to aid the Police in the search for missing people in Buckinghamshire, and also further afield.

In the last few weeks, the team has searched for missing people in Bucks itself, Oxfordshire, assisting Oxfordshire Search & Rescue, Berkshire, assisting Berkshire Lowland Search & Rescue, Hertfordshire, assisting Midshires Search and Rescue and, as part of a national Lowland Rescue callout, assisting with a major police search in the Hitchin area along with many other teams from across the country.

 

Boat Team Training

Even when training, the team are fully equipped with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to ensure that the training environment is as realistic as possible and that the team are used to operating both the boat and the essential equipment to keep themselves safe.