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Providing dependable two-way radio communications for search & rescue in Surrey.
Throughout the UK, there are a number of voluntary organisations that support the vital work of the emergency services. Surrey Search & Rescue is such an organisation, a registered charity that exists to support the Police and other emergency services throughout Surrey. The unit is operational 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. As with most organisations having dependable communication is important.
Surrey Search & Rescue is a wholly voluntary specialist search team which works with the emergency services to find missing vulnerable adults and children. The fleet of Icom radios form the basis of their communications, which are vital within any search. The organisation is activated at the request of the police and other emergency organisations. This is achieved by a telephone call to the duty officer, who will in turn alert the members by way of a paging system. On average 2100 people go missing in Surrey every year, although they do not all require a full call out or search.
Surrey Search & Rescue attracts a diverse range of members in both age and background. Some come with the obvious outdoor-active experience of scouting, medics or military, and some are touched by the types of person they look for.
Andy MacAuley, Communications Officer for Surrey Search & Rescue (SurSAR) said, ‘The common thread that binds all our search volunteers is a love of the outdoors and an urge to put their time and money towards helping vulnerable people in need. Volunteers give up a not inconsiderable amount of money on fuel and equipment as well as a lot of their social lives in order that they can help. We're all very clear that the more people we can get to a search, the quicker we will be able to cover ground and find someone.’
He added, ‘We are a volunteer resource for the police and other emergency services. If we did not exist then the police themselves would require more resources to conduct the same level of search. Since police resources are being frozen or cut, the service we offer allows more officers to spend time on other matters.’
He went on to say,’ The development plans for SurSAR are to grow in numbers of Operational Search Technicians. We currently have 29 Operational members, and plan to expand to 50. We also currently have 8 qualified Search Dogs and are looking to expand this to around 15. That way we can expect a large turnout to a search at any given time when some members may be at work, on holiday or sick.’
Asked why two way radios were so important to SurSAR, Andy said, ‘Two way radios are a vital part of our deployment to any search. They allow information to be disseminated from Search Controllers down to teams in areas where a mobile phone signal can often be non-existent. They also allow any team to report back in with updates to inform the decisions made by the controllers so a search can stay 'live' and fluid based on new intelligence. If the team did not have radios we could still function (this is part of our resiliency plans) but the flow of information would be restricted by the use of SMS or phone call and require much more involvement from the Search Controller in answering calls.’
SurSAR use the Icom IC-F3002 PMR two-way handheld. ‘The IC-F3002 was chosen for its simplicity in use in combination with its ruggedness, waterproofing level and battery life. The easy to use controls work with gloves and are intuitive for beginners during training. In areas where reception is difficult we can deploy a repeater to aid things, but on a lot of training exercises where we cover several square KM of rural land this is often not needed,’ said Andy, adding: ‘The best example I can give you of their usefulness is from a search in January 2012, where a dog-handler from SurSAR found a missing anorexic teenager who had absconded from hospital. In incredibly thick woodland the girl ran away after she was found, at a moment when the search team had split up to guide police and ambulance crews to the scene. The dog handler followed the girl, relaying information back via the radio so that the medical crew could intercept her route before she got in to potentially much more serious problems. Had we not been issued with radios, the process of relaying that information would have been complicated and potentially impossible given the environment.’
To find out more about the work that Surrey Search & Rescue (SurSAR) or to make a donation, please visit here.