“Searches are challenging, both physically and mentally, as one never knows how a search will play out,” says Sarah Clarke.
The Shelburne woman is vice-president and secretary for Barrington Search and Rescue. According to Clarke, because of technology, the typical search of years gone by no longer exists.
Missing people can often call someone they know or call 911 if they are lost. Therefore, when ground search and rescue gets deployed it means the subject cannot be reached by normal means or is unable to negotiate their way out of the situation without assistance, she says.
More often than not, Clarke says that searchers must respond to calls involving special complexities, such as people with dementia disorders, people with an autism spectrum disorder, or even evidence searches involved in police cases. And these searchers often occur in the deep and heavy bush of Nova Scotia.
This is why continual training, especially involving new technology, is so important.
One of the new core competencies for searchers, says Clarke, is helicopter training, since a lost person is usually a complex search case now. With cell phones being ubiquitous today, a lost person who is unable to use their cell phone to call for help means that they are likely in a pretty remote area.
Using helicopters speeds up the process of being able to have an aerial visual of the geographic region, says Clarke.
Helicopters are a huge asset and time saver, both for searches and evacuations. Time is especially a critical factor when someone is injured or overexposed to inclement weather.
But to perform a helicopter search only members who have the training can go up in the helicopter.
“It is vital that we ensure all members are trained because all members cannot respond to all searches,” Clarke explains. "It would be unfortunate to delay finding a person because of a lack of training."
Fortunately, the Emergency Management Office (EMO) funded training, and with an addition $6,500 donation from the 100+ Women Who Care of Shelburne County, it ensured that members could attend this training.
“These members are now responsible to build capacity within our team for helicopter searching,” says Clarke. “Our training officer, Gabriel Jones, promptly returned from the training and set up in-house training for our members.”
These skills have already been put to use.
“This past year, two lost persons in Shelburne County were spotted quickly and received rescue quickly because of helicopter searching,” says Clarke. “In these two searches, the helicopter was able to land closer to the lost person and dispatch one of our searchers to the lost person and help bring them to safety.”
Future goals of Barrington Search and Rescue include continuing to update training and their use of technology.
“We are transitioning to new GPS units in the next month that will require practice,” says Clarke.
If anyone is interested in becoming a part of search and rescue, Clarke says they are always looking to grow their team. They always welcome new volunteers and provide in-house training.
“Often, I talk with people who think we require advanced skills to become a volunteer when our only true requirements are openness to learning and wanting to be part of a team,” she explains.
There is a need for volunteers with a wide interest and skill range.
“It is pretty amazing how much work goes into maintaining our equipment, hall, and training that needs skill sets from technology to teaching to basic woods knowledge,” she says.