Volunteer to help save lives and end distress

WHEN a person suddenly goes missing the long hours waiting for news can be almost impossible to bear. But now a scheme which could improve the chances of finding a missing person by 80 per cent is about to be launched in Cambridgeshire. Lesley Innes disco

WHEN a person suddenly goes missing the long hours waiting for news can be almost impossible to bear.

But now a scheme which could improve the chances of finding a missing person by 80 per cent is about to be launched in Cambridgeshire.

Lesley Innes discovered more about an ambitious project to give the county its first voluntary lowland search and rescue team.

EAST Cambridgeshire's wide open spaces, water filled ditches and isolated country roads can be hostile places for a missing person.

And if that person is vulnerable - very young, frail, elderly or at risk of suicide - it can be a race against time before he or she is in real danger.

Now a project is being launched which could improve the chances of finding a vulnerable person by 80 per cent.

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Paul Arnill, a househusband who takes care of his four children, the youngest six, is setting up Cambridgeshire's first voluntary lowland search and rescue team, CamSAR, which could prove vital in saving lives.

He was a founder member of a similar scheme in Essex four years ago and now wants to share his expertise with volunteers across the county.

"Children don't go missing very often but when they do its reassuring to know that there are people out there who are going to spring into action straight away," said Paul, 38. "We can increase the chances of finding someone by 80 per cent.

"When a person is at risk of committing suicide it's black or white - they are either going to do it or they're not. If it's a cry for help and they go into the woods and take some tablets, not enough to kill themselves but its 2am and its freezing, it becomes a desperate situation.

"If a person has killed him or herself it's vital the body is found before a member of the public or a child comes across the body. It's also important for the family to get the news as quickly as possible so that they can have closure.

"People who go missing act in very set ways depending on their ages and situations. A person suffering from Alzheimer's Disease will, 90 per cent of the time, walk in a straight line. Knowing how these people will react and the most likely places they will go increases the chances of finding them. It's wonderful to find someone and return them to their family."

Paul is hoping to recruit a team of volunteers who will be prepared to turn out day or night when a call goes out for a missing person.

His volunteers can be any age and from any walk of life but they must be relatively fit - able to walk two miles across rough terrain - and enthusiastic.

Those who feel they cannot join the rescue team can still support the charity by becoming radio operators, committee members or fund-raisers.

Paul, a former member of the Royal Anglian Regiment Territorial Army who lives near Wisbech, expects the charity will need to raise around £35,000 a year to support the team.

Volunteers will attend a two-day initial training course and they will receive on-going training as part of the team.

It is hoped around 30 volunteers will be on the charity's books, with about 10 being called out at any one time.

Anyone interested in finding out more can contact Paul on 01553 827682 or 07832 246651 or by email at camsar@fsmail.net or visit the national website at www.alsar.co.uk

# Anyone over the age of 18 can apply to join Cambridgeshire Search and Rescue but to be an active searcher you need to be reasonably fit.

All members are required to complete a health questionnaire and undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check.

No specific skills are needed as full training will be given in first aid, team leadership, land navigation, including use of map and compass, and other associated subjects.

To become fully operational you will need to attend an assessment and pass the Initial Search Course - a two day course that takes place over a weekend. Volunteers are also expected to attend a minimum number of training evenings and exercises during the year.

Uniform and equipment is provided by the team but it is recommended volunteers have a pair of good black boots with ankle support.

When training and whilst on active duty you will be covered by insurance and there is a £3 monthly membership fee.

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