TRURO, N.S. – Forget the image of people in a long line, walking through a field in an effort to fine someone; today’s searchers are more like detectives looking for clues.
Colchester Ground Search and Rescue is a group of highly trained volunteers who are very good at spotting clues, and they recently had a very busy period, with three searches during a 72-hour period. They led two searches for 12-year-old boys in Colchester County and assisted to find an elderly woman in Jeddore.
“They were all successful and it’s a great feeling when we have a successful search, “ said Tom Fitzpatrick, a member of Colchester Ground Search and Rescue, and president of Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue. “It’s a really good boost.
“The searches for the two boys were the first searches in three years in Colchester County, so it was pretty unusual. Colchester is highly respected and gets called to help all over the province though.”
He said years ago they would form lines and walk through the woods, but that used a lot of resources and wasn’t very effective.
“Now we train people to be clue conscious. A lost person is a clue generator, leaving wrappers, broken branches, crushed grass... Big lines of people destroyed clues; people are trained to find clues now.”
Trained searchers are also careful not to go into an area too soon, as dogs can work much more effectively if fewer people have added their scent to an area.
There are a couple of trained search and rescue dogs with volunteers in Nova Scotia, but because there isn’t one in Colchester County, an RCMP K-9 unit was called in to help.
Search and rescue volunteers come from various backgrounds. Fitzpatrick spent 32 years in the military and worked with Canadian Helicopters as a search and rescue instructor before joining the Colchester group six years ago. But a background in this area isn’t required.
“Training is provided and well-trained searchers are worth their weight in gold,” he said. “There are many different roles and not all volunteers go into the woods. We need truck drivers, radio operators, computer operators…”
Local residents often show up to help with searches, but sometimes they’re challenging the organization’s resources. Information on everyone who shows up has to be recorded, and that requires time from a trained volunteer.
“We have a small but very dedicated team – about 25 – and get about 75 per cent of our searchers out all the time,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re in dire need of members in Colchester Ground Search and Rescue so if people want to help, we’d like them to come out and get trained.”
To learn more email firstname.lastname@example.org , call 902-641-3011 or go to the website at http://colchestersar.ca/