Insights from a Bucks Search Tech Episode 3

Episode 3 – ‘What I didn’t realise when I Joined Bucks Search and Rescue’

Was it that I hadn’t realised, or maybe it had never even crossed my mind, but some of these things really came as a shock, and in speaking to the team I wasn’t alone.

I hadn’t realised …

How many other people hadn’t heard of Search & Rescue. Now when I tell people about Lowland Rescue, and our Search & Rescue team I start the conversation with…”So you’ve heard of Mountain Rescue? You’ve heard of RNLI?  Well we cover that big bit in between them. We cover from hill to high water, we are Lowland Rescue.”

The difference between us and Mountain Rescue. Well apart from the obvious, I know we are a little limited for mountains in Buckinghamshire, but in comparing us to these other groups that are more well known by the public, if you think about why and how we operate, we are significantly different.  Generally Mountain Rescue teams are called out for lost or injured people who don’t intend to get into difficulty. They spend less time searching, but are involved in more complex rescues and extractions.  Lowland Rescue on the other hand are called in to search for missing vulnerable people who, in some cases, either don’t want to be found or, don’t even realise they are lost. Sometimes it feels like a game of hide and seek.

There was a search methodology, a set of processes and search techniques to learn.  These are the things that make the difference in sending in experienced Search Technicians rather than members of the public. This is what makes us efficient and effective. We don’t get an exact point to find  missing people, we may get the last known place they were seen. Search & Rescue Teams use a proven methodology to plan and run searches that places the teams in the most probable area, to make a find in the quickest time possible. I hadn’t realised it would be so hard to find our missing people sometimes.

How much of area we cover.  My discovery since joining is that Buckinghamshire is a long county. It takes over an hour, without traffic to travel from south to north. Like all Search & Rescue teams we also assist our neighbouring teams.  Our neighbours include: Berkshire, Oxfordshire, London, Northamptonshire, and our Mid-shires team covering Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. That’s a lot of ground to cover, a long way to travel even before your search begins.

How many call-outs there would be.  I hadn’t known, understood or appreciated just how many people go missing, and for what reasons. I had not been exposed to the extent of, or volume of individuals impacted by mental health issues.  In 2019 our team dealt with over 80 calls and spent in excess of 1500 hours actively searching.

How important closure is for families. I have always heard about “closure”, but it is only now I know the true value of this word.  I now realise how much comfort this can bring even in the darkest hours.

What I also hadn’t realised was that working with a team of individuals in a volunteer group, you get people doing what they do, for the right reasons.  They are not in it for themselves. They are not in it for any financial rewards. They are not all searchers, some play important ‘back office’ roles. They are in it to serve their communities and help others in need, and in return get a massive amount of satisfaction to know they have made a difference. They are your Bucks Search and Rescue Team.





Insights from a Bucks Search Tech Episode 2

Episode 2 – ‘What I’ve learnt and achieved since Joining Search and Rescue’

You can learn to do anything, your level of achievement however is down to 3 elements, effort, skill and courage.

Effort – It really is up to you.  You only get out of it what you put into it.

Skill – I could list out all the skills that I’ve learnt in my time in Search and Rescue, and it’s a long list.  It includes things that to be honest I never thought I would ever master when I first joined, like using a compass and map, the radio comms, helming a rib. We learnt ‘Lost Person Behaviour’, what I have learnt since is that our missing people haven’t read the book, they don’t all stick to script, so you have to be prepared for anything.

Skill development comes from practice, honing those skills over, and over again until they become the natural reaction in any situation. This routine is what we then default to in stressful times.  It also inspires self-control and fosters confidence within us.

Search and Rescue gives you far more than just the opportunity to learn new skills. It gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself and your emotional awareness. It taught me that it was okay to step out of my comfort zone, to challenge my courage.

Courage – Shortly after joining I had an opportunity to be a missing person ‘MISPER’ in a search exercise. Being alone in the woods for just over 90 mins, how hard could it be?  After 30mins I felt lost, my confidence left me, after a while things started to spiral out of control. I came out of the woods shivering.  At the time I believed I was just cold. It was not until afterwards I realised it was fear.  I was petrified in there. It was at this point I learnt to have the courage to face my fear and make the decision to overcome it. I realise for some this is not easy. I had locked it away in the back of my mind for years, almost in denial. The difference now was the realisation that I had a choice; with new skills I had more confidence; with the right support I had an element of comfort in doing something about it.  My fear was ‘the woods’, you’d have to question my judgement in joining a Search and Rescue team, or was this what drove me to join? I am now totally comfortable in this environment, for me this is a massive achievement.

I’ve learnt to ditch the guilt and put myself first. Only if I am at my best can I then help others. Through experience I’ve learnt what works for me and what doesn’t.  The more prepared and organised I am, less stress I have running out the door and the more I can concentrate on the job in hand.  Through practice and repetition, we can learn discipline, regime or routine, I now have a routine in place after a call out.  After that coffee when I get in, whatever time of the day or night, I make sure I prep my kit ready to go back out again.

I’ve learnt to reassess my sense of failure. Early on if I had been on a search and completed my area with no find, I felt I had failed. Truth is the value that this brought to the team was to confirm that the missing person was not in that area, and therefore they could eliminate it, and narrow down the areas of focus. I have also learnt that it is okay to ask for advice or help, and to accept that the diversity of the team is actually one of it’s strengths.

And finally, I’ve learnt to:

  • Trust my judgement
  • Take actions when they matter most
  • Don’t get lost if it all goes wrong
  • Talk to people about your feelings and emotions
  • Do something rather than nothing
  • Believe I can make a difference


A HUGE thank you to all in Search and Rescue for providing these opportunities and being so supportive as we learn to get through them.

Bucks Search and Rescue

‘Insights from a Bucks Search Tech’

Episode 1 – ‘Why I do what I do’

‘Why do I do what I do?’ sounds like a really simple question to answer doesn’t it?  Well believe me I have been asking myself this question for the last few months and I am only now at the point of understanding my real reasons for doing what I do with Bucks Search & Rescue. This piece won’t directly answer that question, but it will hopefully trigger thoughts and considerations in people, and that might lead to a better understanding of what drives a Search Tech to do what they do.

When I first joined the team, my response to that question was to tell people I was trying to fill the gap where once I spent every spare minute coaching soccer. Now I’m operational and having experienced the reality of being there when someone needs help, that response doesn’t seem to explain it properly anymore.  This led me to believe that there was something else driving me to do what I do every time a call-out comes, and the natural reactions and emotions that are triggered along with it.  I wondered if I was the only one who did not know what this need or reason was. Well, a few months later I find I was not the only one, but I might have been the only one admitting to wondering why.

I guess when you’re out in the middle of the night, in-between completing one search area and being assigned the next one, the cold, the dark and the tiredness leave us a little exposed, and the hard shell of a Search Tech can sometimes soften and we reach out for a little comfort, or some form of affirmation of our thoughts and beliefs.  What follows when these conversations start can lead to some of the most enlightening and unexpected moments for all involved.  As I thought most people realise and acknowledge why they joined the team, but trying to explain why they do what they do now, what really drives them to respond to call-out’s was not something they had even thought about.

It’s true, everyone has a story, even if they don’t think they do, or more commonly if you don’t think they could have. In some cases these stories, some recent, some personal, some going right back to childhood were the driving force behind us doing what we do.  For some these chats were the first time the reasons had been considered, realised, or understood.  It became obvious to me that the original reason for joining was different to their reason for doing what they do now they are operational.

There is some commonality in the reasons given as to why we joined the team.  Most talk about wanting something else, needing a challenge, a way to give back to their community, some needing an escape from work, for some it’s the outdoors that attracts them, some needing to get head space, for others it’s been a direct result of being personally affected, or being helped by a Search and Rescue team in the past.  There seems to be less commonality when it comes to what drives us to respond to the calls in the way we do, in fact that seems to be a much more deep-set reason, and as unique as each and everyone of us.

By the nature of our call-out’s they don’t follow any calendar, or schedule, they come through at any time of the day or night, in the wind or rain, on a Sunday or Bank Holiday.  The next time you see one of the Search and Rescue teams going out on a call, just take a couple of moments to remember that each of those volunteers has a story, a reason for being there and doing what they do.  They don’t all talk about it, I am sure some are not even aware, and some are in denial, but as long this incredible bunch of volunteers come together to reunite a vulnerable person with their family, you can be sure they do it for all the right reasons. They are part of the Lowland Rescue family, they are Search Techs.

As a Search Tech I know why I joined, and I now know why I do what I do every time a call goes out, and that understanding satisfies something in me that no paid role ever could. “In finding you, I found me” thank you.

Bucks Search and Rescue Tech