Why does Essex need a Search & Rescue team?

In 2015/16, Essex Police received about 5,000 missing person reports. Of these, 27% were regarded as high risk or vulnerable. Fortunately most were located within a short period of time.

EssexSAR primarily exists to provide additional skilled resources 24 hours a day to help the Police locate missing vulnerable people. They can be just as much at risk in lowland areas as in upland parts of the UK, whatever the weather.

Who does Essex SAR work for, and can anyone contact them to report a missing person?

Essex SAR provides support to the Police when they are searching for vulnerable missing persons. Members of the public should always contact the Police in the first instance regarding a missing person. The Police have overall responsibility for missing person searches, and the team only responds to requests for assistance from the Police, HM Coastguard or from neighbouring SAR teams who have been activated by their own police force. Also in the event of a major incident Essex Fire and Rescue and Essex County Council could ask for our assistance.

Why don’t the Police search for missing persons?

The Police always retain overall responsibility of searching for missing persons nationally and locally, and will always be involved. Voluntary search teams such as EssexSAR are called to assist if the Police believe they are an appropriate resource to supplement the efforts of their own officers, and will increase the likelihood of detection of a missing person.

Does Essex SAR receive money from the Government for its activities?

No, the team is funded entirely by charitable means.

Is Lowland SAR the same as mountain rescue?

Not quite, whilst lowland teams are trained in the same basic search techniques the skills required are slightly different in order to suit the terrain. Mountain rescue teams are normally called out to lost or injured walkers/climbers who usually know where they are and want to be rescued whereas Lowland teams are called out to look for people who may not know they are lost e.g. people with dementia or mental health issues such as depression

Mountain rescue teams affiliate to the Mountain Rescue Council [or the Mountain Rescue Committee for Scotland] whilst the lowland teams affiliate to the Association of Lowland Search & Rescue [ALSAR]. All three organisations are recognised by the UK Government and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and have close links with each other.

Do members of Essex SAR get paid for searching?

Members of the team do not receive payment for searching, and do so on a voluntary basis.

Do the Police contact members of Essex SAR if there is a callout?

The Police have a central contact for the team, and members are called out by the search manager by means of text message.

Who can join Essex SAR?

Essex SAR is open to all – operational searchers must be aged between 18 and 70 (due to insurance restrictions), and be able to walk 5 miles in 2 hours. Non-operational members can be any age and do not have to pass a fitness test. All training is provided, but prospective members with existing relevant skills are very welcome.

Does specialist clothing cost a fortune to purchase?

Essex SAR provides basic safety equipment like a bump cap and hi-vis jacket, but members are expected to supply suitable waterproof clothing and sensible footwear. This does not need to cost a great deal, and the team can provide advice and substantial discounts.

Where is Essex SAR based?

The team’s control vehicle is kept at Boreham where it also has a storage facility and access to a training room. Training is undertaken at various locations throughout the county. Team members live in all parts of Essex and in neighbouring counties.

I work full-time so what is the point of joining if I am not available?

We understand that team members have other commitments and are not always available for searches. The team tries to recruit members from all walks of life including students, retired people and those still at work. Retired and self-employed members are often available during the day and those with full-time jobs are usually available in the evenings and at weekends. The greater the spread of availability amongst team members the better we can function.

Do I have to attend all training sessions and callouts?

Before being able to be deployed on a callout, new members have to complete a 4 month initial training programme. They also have to pass police vetting checks.

To remain current as searchers members are expected to attend a minimum amount of training throughout the year, and regular re-assessment. Training takes place on one Sunday per month and one Wednesday evening per month. Members are expected to maintain attendance of at least 50% of training.

Experienced members can go on to become Team Leaders or Search Managers.

Members are not expected to be available for every callout, but need to have a realistic expectation of being able to attend a reasonable proportion.

How can I become a search dog handler?

To become a dog handler, you need to first successfully complete the initial 4 month training course, and qualify as a search technician. Your dog will also need to be assessed for suitability. Training a dog can take up to 2 years and then you and the dog have to pass 3 assessments to become operational. This training will be in addition to your standard SAR tech training, and is a significant additional commitment.

I don’t think that I am fit enough to go scrambling through the undergrowth, can I still help?

If you are considering joining the team you should be honest with yourself and consider whether you are fit enough to be an active searcher. You do not need to be super fit to get involved, but must be able to walk 5 miles in 2 hours over a variety of terrain. If you are concerned and would like advice please ask.

If you think searching is not for you but would still like to help, we offer non-operational membership as we always need help with fundraising, administration, etc.

How far can I progress in the organisation?

Specialist training courses such as river bank searching, advanced first aid, water rescue, and mountain bike searching are also available once you have completed your basic training.

More experienced team members may be invited to undertake training to become team leaders, looking after a team of searchers on the ground during a search. They can also become a Search Planner in order to help plan the search. The highest attainable level is Search Manager. Team leadership and search management are specialist roles and can be very demanding.

During non-operational times there is no hierarchy within the team, and everyone is treated equally. The team is run by an elected management committee of up to ten members, and any member can stand for election to the committee.

I am frightened of the dark and don’t like the idea of being on my own!

During a search you will always operate as part of a team. In addition to searching for the missing person team members keep a lookout for each other. You will never be asked to search on your own.

Is Search & Rescue a male dominated club for SAS types?

Not at all! The team is made up of all types and ages. We have both male and female members and all are treated equally. Some people want to feel that they are giving something back to society; others have elderly relatives or young children and like to think that people will help if something goes wrong.