Wiltshire Search & Rescue

Working for the Community since the year 2000

Volunteering | Wiltshire Search & Rescue


"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I wanted to put the outdoor adventure training skills I had to further good use and give something back to the local community"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I wanted to be part of a group of dedicated volunteers and learn new skills"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because the rewards of being a volunteer are immeasurable"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because when I was younger my Nan, who had dementia, went walkies from her care home, later to be found by the police. Fortunately, she was ok, but it could have been so different. I felt helpless and was sure I could do more"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because having a parent who volunteers for a mountain rescue team, I have seen the positive impact an organisation like this can have on the local community"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I have seen first hand the comfort that Wiltshire Search & Rescue can bring to family members of missing persons when they know we are out looking for their loved ones"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I can be part of something special and help people having problems. I’m very conscious one day that could be me, my mum or my children"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I wanted to do more of the things I love doing such as being outdoors, having a challenge, meeting new people and giving something back to the community at the same time. I didn’t appreciate what I was doing at the time of joining but now I’m very proud to be part of the team"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I wanted to do something positive in my free time and to learn some really valuable skills as well"

"I choose to volunteer for Wiltshire Search & Rescue because I wanted to make a difference to the local community and use my military skills to good effect to save lives whilst working within a team of like minded, professional and committed people"

We are an entirely voluntary organisation, with no paid staff. We are completely reliant on the time that people are prepared to invest in fundraising, training and, most importantly, responding to call-outs to find missing people. This is a significant commitment, but a hugely rewarding one.

Most of our volunteers take on operational roles i.e. they are on-call at selected times, to be activated by a 999 control room.  Members must successfully complete the Lowland Search Technician training programme over about 6 months before becoming operational. After gaining suitable experience, you can progress on to develop specialisms if you wish. All our operational team members also get involved in fundraising throughout the year.

If an operational role isn't for you, we also need volunteers who support the team with vital fundraising, delivering training, hiding for our search dogs, equipment maintenance, running the charity in the background and many other tasks.

1. If you are thinking about volunteering for Wiltshire Search and Rescue, please read our frequently asked questions (below) first.

2. If you’re still interested in applying, then please contact us via the website to be added to our mailing list. You will be invited to an informal session to meet some of the team and learn more about what we do. These happen every couple of months, all year around. 

3. Providing that meeting us and learning more hasn't put you off, you will then be sent an application form. If you struggle with filling in forms then let us know, and we can make reasonable adjustments. 

4. A few months before a new intake is scheduled to start, successful applicants will be invited along to a skills assessment session, where you will move between different stations completing tasks with both other applicants and current team members. These will be outside, whatever the weather, so make sure you dress for the conditions!

The 2023 training programme is currently running until December 2023. Once these trainees have successfully qualified as Search Technicians, the next intake will be selected in April 2024, ready to start training in June 2024. If you'd like to be part of this, please still get in touch now and you'll be invited to one of the meet and greet sessions that run every couple of months. There will be other opportunities to get involved while you wait for the next intake. In particular we strongly suggest coming along to help our search dogs to train, by acting as a "body" for them to find. This allows team members to get to know you, and helps us see your personality will be a good fit for the Team.
You *MUST* be available for on the 2nd and 5th June (Induction Day and first training session respectively) to be part of the 2024 intake.

 We use UKLSI as an external training provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many hours will we need to train for?
It takes around 100 hours to qualify as a Search Technician, with most completing in about 6 months. There are 20 mandatory training sessions which are either delivered on a weekend, or on a Wednesday evening. Dates are released early in the recruitment process to allow prospective trainees to plan ahead, and each session is run at least twice to fit in around work and family commitments.
These sessions include:
  • Basic Medical Skills – to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to care for victims of life-threatening illnesses or injuries until they can be given full medical care at a hospital.
  • Water Awareness – understanding and assessing the risks surrounding searching in water-based environments such as rivers, canals etc
  • Proof of Fitness – Covering five miles in under two hours over rough terrain whilst carrying team kit, and carrying a stretcher over obstacles.
  • Using the Wiltshire Search and Rescue online management system
  • Using a digital radio and basic navigational skills.

    There are exercises every month to put the skills learned into practice in a realistic scenario, and be signed off as competent. There is also the opportunity to attend a two-day residential UK Lowland Search Institute (UKLSI) course, where many of the Search Technician skills are taught in multiple sessions.

2. Do we need any special skills or qualifications? 

The short answer is "No!"

While it is useful to have experience of some of the skills already like sending messages via a radio or navigating with a map and compass, we'd like to stress that it's not essential. Our training programme is designed to take someone with no previous qualifications and, with a good level of commitment, turn them into Search Technicians who are confident and competent in all the basic skills. Recognition of prior learning will be considered for some subjects, for example medical and water rescue.

While some of our team members are serving or ex-emergency services or military, the vast majority are school teachers, plumbers, farm workers, university students and dozens of other professions. What we're really looking for are excellent team players who are motivated, energetic and eager to learn, and have plenty of time to be available for callouts, training and supporting the Charity with fundraising. No-one should be put off applying because they've not done anything similar before... you might still be exactly the type of person who will fit into our Team really well!

A full UK driving licence and access to a vehicle is necessary. Due to the time critical, 24/7 nature of Search and Rescue, public transport is not a suitable alternative.

3. Can you tell me about the vetting/criminal record check?

All trainees must complete Non-Police Personnel Vetting Level 1. This is so that Wiltshire Police can be confident that the operational team members are suitable to care for missing and vulnerable adults and children, to have unsupervised access to Police premises, and be given access to sensitive & restricted information.

Not all criminal convictions or cautions are an immediate bar to volunteering. Team members do not get to see the specific details of your disclosure, only if you are/ aren’t suitable for the role. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

NPPV is a higher-level vetting than a DBS check into your criminal record. NPPV is designed to look thoroughly at all aspects of not only your life, for example whether you’ve ever been to court over a debt or are in arrears on a loan, details of any friends or acquaintances who you think are engaged in criminal activities, and whether there are any links to extremist groups. NPPV is all about building an overall picture of your character and weeding out any people who much be susceptible to being blackmailed or tempted to pass on information to criminals for financial gain. Having a distant cousin who has been in prison, or a spouse who was in debt as a student won’t stop you from getting a role as civilian staff or volunteer. 

4. Once trained, do we work shifts or are we on-call?

Wiltshire Search and Rescue works on an on-call system, and all operational members are required to use an app to update whether they are available to attend a callout.

A team member has total control over choosing the times that they are on-call, and can change their status at a moment’s notice; we understand that work and family commitments should come first.

5. Once trained, how many hours do we have to commit?

As many as you are able to. On average, the team is called out 50-70 times a year to search for vulnerable and missing people. It is also expected that members will support with fundraising events, mentoring new trainees and helping to plan exercises as and when they can give their time. There is the option to go on sabbatical for several months if work or family means you cannot commit for a period.

Every operational member is required to attend a minimum of 25% of call-outs per year (roughly 1-2 a month). It is important that life-saving skills are kept up-to-date, so operational members are required to attend at least 25% of training sessions, and some qualifications need to be reassessed every year.

6. Is there an age limit?

We accept trainees from 18 years old (on day 1 of the training programme), and there is no upper age limit. Providing you are capable of maintaining your skills and fitness level, everyone is welcome to volunteer. The is the expectation that all operational members are comfortably capable of walking five miles in under two hours over rough terrain whilst carrying team equipment, carry a loaded stretcher and perform chest compressions as part of Basic Life Support.  There is no fitness requirements for non-operational members in a support role such as fundraising.

To drive a team vehicle, you must be 25 years old. Members over 75 have a reduced level of Personal Accident Insurance coverage

7. What progression into other roles is available?

There are several opportunities to progress from a Search Technician:

Team Leader- Being responsible for the Search Technicians in a particular sector and overseeing locating a missing person and getting them to a place of safety.
Search Planner- Using information about the missing person and statistical data to decide which areas of high probability that need to be searched urgently
Search Operations- Taking the Plan and putting it into action by forming teams and deploying them
Search Manager- The person with overall responsibility for all SAR team members deployed, linking closely with the commanders of other emergency services at an incident.
Team Medic- Additional training and assessment to become a nationally registered Lowland Rescue Casualty Carer. Spend time with the Ambulance Service and in Hospital to develop skills to care for ill and injured people in remote environments. Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics can have their advanced qualifications recognised too.
Water Search/ Flood Rescue-
Trained to search by wading in dry suits or from boats and sleds, and be able to respond to assist in large-scale flooding incidents. Train to be able to recover bodies from water.
Bike Searcher-
Using a mountain bike to rapidly search tracks and trails, and deliver key pieces of kit to an incident location.
Driver- On-road driver moving our vans and trailers from base to callouts, and off-road driver using our 4x4 to deliver equipment to the scene and extract a casualty in a stretcher, or assist during snow.
Search Dog Handler/ Support- Using a dog to find a human in the sector by smelling their scent.

There is no requirement to develop a specialism if you don't want to. We encourage people to spend their first year settling into the team before progressing, and to concentrate on doing 1 or 2 specialisms well rather than try and do them all simultaneously!

8. When and where does the training happen?

Most training takes place on Wednesday evenings from 19:30 – 22:00 at the Wiltshire Police HQ in Devizes and on Sundays between 09:00 and 17:00. Exercises to test the skills learned can be anywhere in Wiltshire.
Occasionally there is the opportunity to train with other SAR teams in neighbouring counties.

9. What do Search Technicians actually do?

A Search Technician (ST) aims to find a missing or vulnerable person as rapidly as possible, provide any initial life-saving treatment and then move them to a place of safety. This could be into the back of an ambulance, or home to their worried family members. An ST is qualified to Lowland Rescue National Standards, which means neighbouring teams can work seamlessly together.

Search Technicians have the responsibility of arriving at a callout prepared with the appropriate clothing and equipment, to be fit and well enough to go out and search for the missing person, to follow instruction from their Team Leader, and support the other members of their team.

While out on a search, Search Technicians will work in small teams to locate the missing person. They will work under direction from the Team Leader, who will have been briefed on a plan from the Search Manager. Search skills, communication and the ability to follow instructions accurately will all be used on a search. It is also important that every member of Wiltshire Search and Rescue is respectful to members of the public, especially family and friends of the missing person, that they meet on a search.

10. I can’t commit to becoming a Search Technician. Are there any other roles?

Wiltshire Search and Rescue relies entirely on grants and fundraising for income so anyone that would like to join to support with fundraising will be welcomed. There are also administrative roles such as graphic design, web development and supporting the writing of funding applications. If you have skills in business, vehicle or equipment maintenance, communication or fundraising, then we’d love to hear from you if you have time to volunteer in a support role.
We already have a number of Healthcare Professionals who occasionally help with the training and assessment of our Casualty Carers. We'd be keen to hear from anyone who thinks they have a qualification or experience teaching any of the skills we need and can assist our Training Leads.

11. Do we need to sign a contract?

There is a volunteer agreement that we ask everyone to sign, but is not an employment contract. It sets out what is expected and how Wiltshire Search and Rescue will support you.

12. I work full-time. Can I still join?

Yes! Most of our volunteers have paid jobs and fit in their operational duties during their free time if their employers can’t release them. You are able to choose when you are available and on-call through our online management system. You are never expected to turn down your primary employment or family commitments to support Wiltshire Search and Rescue, but there is mandatory training that needs to be completed each year in order for you to remain operational.

13. Do we get paid? What about expenses?

There is no salary as all positions are voluntary. Expenses are not paid so you need to be responsible for your own fuel, food, drinks and outdoor clothing. All operational members will be issued personal protective equipment and uniform, but other items such as boots and outdoor clothing are the financial responsibility of the members. Fuel is the single biggest expense, as team members travel all over Wiltshire (and occasionally to surrounding counties) for callouts. Basic training is free, but we encourage our trainees to attend a UKSLI (UK Lowland Search Institute) weekend course for which there is a small charge for food and accommodation.

14. I want to train my dog to find missing people, can I get involved?

Within Lowland Rescue, some counties (such as Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire) have a team that is are purely for search dogs and their handlers , and another for human searchers. Other counties like Wiltshire and Oxfordshire have a single team that encompasses both.

In Wiltshire being a dog handler is a specialism; every team member is expected to be a Search Technician first and foremost.

If you're looking to join the team with the specific aim of becoming a dog handler, please note that it will be at least a year as a trainee and newly-qualified Search Technician before you will be offered the chance to develop a specialism. Training a dog for air scenting or ground scenting requires a huge amount of time and dedication, and not everyone who starts this journey successfully completes the training. Once you have passed national assessment and have a qualified search dog, there is no guarantee it will be used on every callout. First and foremost, you will be a Search Technician and any specialisms will only be used where appropriate.

You will be expected to keep up all the core competencies of a WILSAR Search Technician at all times, along with your dog qualifications. It can take a minimum of 18 months to train a search dog in any discipline to the national standards recognised by the emergency services.

If you are only interested in only being a specialist dog handler, joining Berkshire Search Dogs (https://www.bsard.org.uk/), Hampshire Search dogs (https://hsardogs.org.uk) or Dorset Search Dogs (http://www.dorsetsearchdogs.org.uk/) might be more for you.

If you'd like to find out more, one of the best ways is to come along and volunteer as a Dogsbody; hiding for the dogs to try and find you. This will allow you to see the dogs in action, and speak to handlers first-hand.
15. I want to fly my drone to find missing people, can I get involved?
Drones are used by the emergency services for several different incident types, and are a very effective tool when searching for missing persons. They have several advantages over helicopters in certain situations, and new technology has meant that Police, Fire & Rescue, Ambulance HART, Coastguard and Search & Rescue Teams all now use them routinely.

We operate a drone in pairs with a Pilot and a Spotter; the Pilot concentrates on flying the drone, and the Spotter manages the surroundings, communicates with incident control and helps to “spot” by watching the live downlink from the drone’s camera. Being a Drone Pilot or a Drone Spotter is a specialism; every team member is expected to be a Search Technician first and foremost.

If you're looking to join the team with the intention of progressing to become a SAR Drone Pilot, please note that it will be at least a year as a trainee and newly-qualified Search Technician before you will be offered the chance to develop a specialism. This includes if you already have experience as a commercial or recreational drone pilot. Training to become a SAR Drone Pilot requires a huge amount of time and dedication, and not everyone who starts this journey successfully completes the training.

Once you have passed the Emergency Services Flight Operator course, and external assessment to become a qualified as a SAR Drone Pilot, there is still no guarantee it will be used on every callout. First and foremost, you will be a Search Technician and any specialisms will only be used where appropriate. You will be expected to keep up all the core competencies of a WILSAR Search Technician at all times, along with your drone qualifications.

If you’d like to find out more, please send us a message via the “contact us” page, and come along to one of our Meet & Greet sessions for a discussion.

Copyright © Wiltshire Search and Rescue, Registered charity number 1095994 The "Lowland Rescue" mark is a trademark, and "From Hill to High Water" is a registered trademark of the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue and are used under licence.

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