Search and rescue services on the Island have received a massive boost following a ground-breaking training exercise held in Wootton at the weekend.

As a result of the two-day course, 12 volunteers from Isle of Wight Search and Rescue (WightSAR) now have learned the skills and certifications required for them to be able to join real searches.

Because these essential search technician courses are traditionally held on the mainland and places are at such a premium, only up to four WightSAR members at a time have traditionally been able to attend.

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So WightSAR set about arranging an Island-based course so all the volunteers who have joined the organisation in the last 18 months during and just prior to the pandemic could gain the necessary accreditation.

They were helped by supporters including PGL Little Canada who provided the training location and Wightlink Ferries who met the cost of bringing the mainland course tutors to the Island. The trainees were also able to use equipment purchased through the recent grant by Island Roads’ Isle of Wight Foundation.

The weekend’s training programme covered elements including ground search techniques, map and compass reading, first aid, crime scene preservation, safe evacuation practices and making best use of the latest technology and specialist search software.

WightSAR founder and chairman Dean Terrett said:

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“The training based on the mainland is like gold dust as it covers all 23 Lowland Rescue teams across the whole country.  In normal circumstances we would normally get a maximum of four spaces per course which potentially could have taken us anything up to another year for our new members to qualify”.

“Holding the course on the Island enables us to rapidly train our volunteers and as a result get them ready to be able to join real searches much sooner than would otherwise be possible.

“These local courses will make a huge difference to the service we are able to offer and we are so grateful to all the businesses and organisations, including PGL, who support us.”

Dave Matthews, Police Search Advisor with Hampshire Constabulary, said:

“WightSAR provide us with a vital resource in the search for vulnerable missing persons.

“Several of our members had the opportunity over the weekend to witness the extensive training WightSAR member undertake to become Search Technician. The increase in numbers will help greatly with this lifesaving role. We welcome the new recruits to WightSAR.”

Keith Greenfield, Wightlink chief executive said:

“We know what a valuable service WightSAR provide and we were very keen to support this excellent training initiative by bringing across the tutors.”

A registered charity and member of the Association of Lowland Rescue, WightSAR volunteers make themselves available 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year to support Hampshire Constabulary and other agencies in searches for high-risk, vulnerable missing persons on the Island.

This includes children, people with mental health or learning difficulties, those living with dementia and anyone at the time of their disappearance is at risk of harming themselves.

WightSAR receives no form of statutory funding and is therefore solely reliant on fundraising, public and business donation. For information on the various volunteering roles within WightSAR please visit our Volunteering Page

Island Echo