VICSES volunteers lend support to missing persons campaign

VICSES volunteers lend support to missing persons campaign

03/08/2023, 1:00 PM

For National Missing Persons Week, we acknowledge the efforts of our Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteers, who have been called to assist in around 650 search and rescue operations every year, on average, for the past three years.

VICSES volunteers training for Search and Rescue incidents (photo credit: VICSES)

Search And Rescue (SAR) operations to find missing persons are distinct from the other rescue services our volunteers provide, such as road, high-angle, boat, and land-based swift water rescue. They often take place over a large area, in challenging terrain, adverse weather conditions, and over a longer time period.

As part of their highly-specialised training, our VICSES volunteers learn to develop an efficient search strategy, to cover the widest area in the shortest amount of time. Our volunteers train to find any evidence left behind which may suggest where the missing person can be found, in simulated exercises which take place in varied environments such as parkland, bush, coastal, and in urban settings.

So, when they are asked to assist police or neighbouring units with search operations, our volunteers are ready.

Earlier this year, a man living with dementia went missing from a property north of Casterton. This prompted volunteers from VICSES Dartmoor, Dimboola, Edenhope, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Kaniva, and Nhill Units, alongside volunteers from Bush Search and Rescue Victoria (BSAR), to comb the area until they found the man.

Volunteers searched the area on foot, and in two four-wheel drive vehicles from lunch into the late evening. Once located, the multi-agency team ensured his safe passage to a waiting ambulance, into the care of paramedics.

This search and rescue operation was just one of hundreds undertaken by our volunteers throughout Victoria this year.

National Missing Persons Week is an annual event which takes place during the first week of August and is coordinated by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre through the Australian Federal Police with the support of State and Territory police. It aims to raise awareness of the significant issues associated with this phenomena leading to a reduction in the incidence and impact of missing persons in Australia.

In Australia a missing person is defined as anyone who is reported missing to police, whose whereabouts are unknown, and where there are fears for the safety or concern for the welfare of that person.

This is why so many of our VICSES volunteers undertake specialised training in how to locate missing persons in their communities.

It takes thousands of dedicated VICSES volunteers from across the state to provide emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Interested in becoming a VICSES volunteer? Join Us.

Quote attributable to VICSES Hamilton Unit, Deputy Controller, John McKenzie:

“It’s something we are trained to do, and it’s a unique volunteer experience; one that you might not expect. You’re able to help people in a different way, people who are lost or scared.”

“Many of our unit members are avid hikers. They chose to move to the area or have lived there all their lives. They take that passion for exploring the landscape and put those skills to use, to find those who are lost.”