I volunteer with a Lowland Rescue team. I’m a trainee searcher (Search Technician) with Surrey Search and Rescue and this week volunteering with them taught me two things about myself: That I’m still able to deal with distressing situations and being ‘on call’ is not a bad thing.
My first epiphany was on a search training exercise held in some gorgeous spring country where the team was looking for six missing teenagers. Lowland Rescue generally search in teams of four; a team leader,a navigator, a comms person and I made up the fourth, as the nominated first aider.
Our search team set off from the control point towards our allocated search sector that was a steep wooded hillside leading to an area of open water. It was evening and the shadows were lengthening but it was still warm and the land was burgeoning with spring foliage, birdsong and gentle breezes. (I should say now that it was the exact opposite of the search team mantra “If it’s training it must be raining”). Such four person teams search on foot. So we searched on our journey out to our sector and on arrival we realised that to cover the land effectively we could walk two tracks some 20m apart on a steep-45 degree-hill communicating by voice and looking both up and down the slope.
I was descending a set of rustic steps to the lower footpath with a colleague when I heard a disembodied voice calling, “Help, help … Over here!”
This was where my first revelation began. We, in our high visibility jackets had been seen before we saw the ‘speaker’. (Hmm, how well was I searching?) Anyhow I moved towards the direction of the voice and saw a lad sitting in the woods slightly above me, holding his right wrist and shaking. He appeared to be in shock and his arm was ‘made-up’ to appear to have a deep open wound on his forearm. His stage makeup was good and as an actor he was convincing. Other than the shock and the obvious wound he was responsive.
However next to him was another more serious casualty. This youth was both unconscious and unresponsive but was breathing normally. He had wounds on his forehead and what appeared to be a serious cut on his arm with a potentially broken wrist. He was in a slight hollow made when a tree had been blown down in a winter storm. It was difficult to reach him.
So whilst I undertook a safety survey of the scene before me, my colleague communicated with our team leader and our control unit by radio. The boys meanwhile stayed in character and guess what? I was fully drawn in to the test the exercise designers had set for us.
I assessed the area, the boys and the dangers to me and others coming along to offer help. During this time I identified the injuries already described and that that the unconscious lad was stable and no longer bleeding and so I quickly bound up the ambulant lads wound. Next I carefully checked the unconscious casualty for broken bones and any unseen injury. Then I bound his wounds and splinted his arm using the first aid equipment all Lowland Rescue teams carry.
With the professional support of the rest of the team who dealt with reporting, scene management, requesting specialist help and welfare issues everything was under control so I was able to remain managing the condition of the unconscious casualty.
I took stock and realised I was dealing with this exercise just as I would if it was a real event from the adrenaline infused into my body and my focus on assisting the casualties. So I guess even now I am hard-wired to help others yet I surprised myself with the strength of this reaction. Which is in itself was a testament to the exercise planners, the make-up and the actors in situ. When I got home I found myself having difficulty getting to sleep with the excitement still driving me 2 hours after the “End-Ex” or end of the training. I knew then that Lowland Search and Rescue was the right choice of volunteer ‘career’ for me.
The second thing I learned was on my first live call out to a missing person when I received a message at 0200 on Sunday morning. My first ‘live’ Lowland Rescue ‘shout’. Fortunately my wife is also a Lowland Rescue member so I was able to confirm with her my sleepy reply to control before pressing the send button and transmitting my availability to the command team! Then we seamlessly dressed and were ready with our go-bag and team toffees within 15 minutes. We set off to the rendezvous passing late night revellers rolling home from the local club and pubs. However we had driven no more than a mile when the ‘stand down’ was received. The missing person had been found safe and well and was being reunited with their family. It is a well known fact that in the first Golden Hour of an investigation time is critical and I’d rather my sleep was interrupted than a missing person was not found.
So now I know that not only am I fit and able to help an injured person with first aid but that I’m organised and prepared to be able to turn out in short order to support my Lowland Rescue buddies looking to find missing people and keep them safe. I can cope with the stress of a live event and the loss of sleep.
If you can see the benefits of having Lowland Rescue teams on call to help you and your families do consider donating to your local team. If you are interested in joining your local Lowland Rescue feel free to get in touch with me or via the links below.
You can find out more about Surrey Search and rescue here – http://www.sursar.org.uk
or in other areas at – http://www.lowlandrescue.org/member-units
and here’s what volunteering gives to the community……