Valley Search and Rescue held a major training exercise in the Centreville area Sept. 22. Andy Cue plots coordinates on the map in the VSAR bus.
By Jennifer Vardy Little
An ordinary morning changed in an instant on Sept. 22 as a Centreville woman woke up to find her husband, a man with dementia, had gone missing.
The man was wearing a Project Lifesaver bracelet – a device that allows ground search and rescue teams to quickly find people with conditions like Alzheimer’s or autism, which often cause them to wander – but the first response team found it had been cut off in the woods behind his home. That prompted Valley Search and Rescue (VSAR) to call out more support.
The scenario could easily have been real, but in this case, it was only a training exercise. The event brought together VSAR, the Kings RCMP, search and rescue teams from Annapolis and Hants counties and the Emergency Measures Organization and gave them a chance to test their skills in a controlled environment, said VSAR search director Steve Best.
“It forces readiness and assesses our operating capabilities,” Best said.
It also allows the agencies in-field experience working together, said Kings County RCMP Cpl. Mike Carter.
“The exercise basically reassures and reconfirms response capabilities for different agencies and how they work together,” he said. “It tests search and rescue in a controlled environment.”
It also speeds up response times, Carter said.
About 20 members of the Valley team were involved with the exercise. First, the RCMP dog team was sent in.
“The dog needs kind of a virgin area to go in – somewhere people haven’t already been going through,” Carter said.
Then, the searchers headed out to begin looking for an VSAR member who was playing the missing man role. Another VSAR member was tasked with being the actor playing the wife of the lost man.
In addition to searching the wooded area in Centreville, other VSAR members manned the mobile command centre set up at the scene.
“We need all kinds of volunteers,” said Best. “They don’t have to be going out in the field. We can use people with all sorts of skills – radio, computer skills, running the command bus.”
Each year, said Best, VSAR receives about a dozen calls for searches in the area. All of them, he said, were successful.
“We had about three calls for Project Life users in the past three years,” he added. “It’s really a valuable resource, it lets us find people a lot faster. An awful lot of people have autistic kids or people with Alzheimer’s who go wandering.”
See a slideshow of photos from the search HERE.