2021 was Wiltshire Search and Rescue’s ‘second busiest year ever’

SEARCH and rescue volunteers in Wiltshire have had their “second busiest year ever”.

Wiltshire Search and Rescue (WILSAR) assist police in finding vulnerable and missing people across the county as well as in neighbouring areas.

Chair Adrian Sawyer says 2021 has been the charity’s “second busiest year ever” following on from 2020.

ALSO READ: ‘Busiest year ever’ for search and rescue volunteers

High risk missing people

It was called out 91 times in total – 67 of those were to high risk missing people.

Twenty were to provide Covid support to the NHS while two were to help the ambulance service rescue casualties in remote locations.

There was also an incident where WILSAR’s 4×4 had to be sent out in snowy conditions and volunteers were also called out to a water incident.

Out of the 91 call-outs, 10 were in the Salisbury area which involved high risk missing people.

Eight were adults with six of those incidents relating to mental health while two were to people with dementia. The other two call-outs were to find missing children.

Speaking about how 2021 compared to 2020, Adrian said that “in terms of missing persons the numbers are pretty comparable”.

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While 2020 saw WILSAR volunteers busy supporting the NHS during the first wave this had “reduced back” in 2021 but it remains on standby if needed in January.

Volunteers have provided support at Great Western Hospital in Swindon with portering and assisting with patient care.

In 2020, Wiltshire Search and Rescue was called out 165 times – an increase of more than 100 compared to 2019.

In 2021, 109 volunteers gave more than 25,000 hours for training, fundraising, kit maintenance and call-outs, supporting Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, South Western Ambulance Service, Wiltshire Police and Great Western Hospital.

Adrian said a benefit of the team was its ability to “surge a lot of volunteers into an area in a short space of time”, adding: “When someone goes missing we really are working against the clock but the quicker we can get them found the more likely it is going to be a happy outcome”.

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Fundraising remains ‘challenging’

Fundraising remains a challenge for WILSAR.

“It costs roughly £100,000 a year to keep the team fully functioning and replace vehicles and that kind of thing,” said Adrian.

“The big hit for us has been not being able to do many collections at supermarkets or events where we can get out and meet the public and explain what we do. Added to that there are a lot of other charities that are in a similar position to us. We are vying for the same pot of money.

“It has been challenging but we’re certainly financially stable at the moment and we haven’t had to dip into our emergency reserves.”

Volunteering

WILSAR will be recruiting more volunteers in the summer. 

“For us it’s all about finding people who are enthusiastic, team players who have got a lot of spare time and the lifestyle where they can drop what they are doing at a moments notice to attend an emergency,” said Adrian who urges anyone interested in joining the team to take a look at the website and the frequently asked questions section to find out more. 

Visit: wilsar.org.uk

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