Sometimes, the term ‘volunteer’ can be seen as a bit of a dirty word, meaning someone who is untrained and unmotivated. That’s why we don’t like to use it. Instead we prefer to call our members ‘specialists’, because even though they don’t get paid, they put in hundreds of hours a year in training and development to make sure that there is no better resource to find missing people in the lowland environment in the world.
Our training was developed from scientific research in the US and UK, and differs greatly from the search training given to the Police. You’ll rarely see us lined-up side by side walking across a field because we train to find people fast, covering huge areas to maximise the chances of success quickly.
And we base all of our searches on statistical models which have been generated from thousands of missing-person cases by mountain rescue, search and rescue and the Police. As much as we would all like to think that we are individuals, we tend to stick to patterns of behaviour when we go missing, and these patterns can be used to help find the majority of people in danger. Our Search Managers are experts at interpreting those statistics to create the best possible search tactics.
It takes months to become Operational as a Searcher for WMSAR. 80% of our new recruits will drop out before they reach Operational stage because they don’t realise how much work it is. It’s a second job and for those who do make it to the search team, they must continue to train and develop every month or they face being made non-operational.