Agenda item

Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (Agenda Item 5)

Paul Chamberlain (Chairman) and Paul Webber (Vice-Chairman) will be present to provide a short briefing on the work of the Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue Charity.


The Chairman introduced Paul Chamberlain (Chairman) and Paul Webber (Vice-Chairman) of the Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue Charity (NORLSAR).  He had invited them to make a presentation as he had been impressed by the valuable work the Charity carried out and wanted to help them raise their profile.


Mr Chamberlain explained that NORLSAR provided specialist search services to the Police throughout Norfolk.  They were part of the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue (ALSAR) which had 23 units throughout the country.  They assisted in missing persons searches, primarily for vulnerable people such as the young and the old and infirm.


NORLSAR had started in 1999 evolving from the Breckland Landrover Club.  They had a team of 40 people of whom 28 were on a callout list.  They were available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for call out and sometimes assisted neighbouring counties.


To supplement foot searches they had 12 people trained in water rescue.  Six of those people were trained to an equivalent standard to the Norfolk Fire Service swift water rescue teams.


NORLSAR members were all volunteers who gave their own time to undertake training and assist with searches.  They worked with the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Service and the RAF.  Training took place twice a month.


Mr Webber then painted a verbal picture of how searches were carried out.  A risk assessment was always undertaken before each search.  Issues such as terrain, weather conditions and whether the search was being conducted in the dark were considered and appropriate clothing and equipment was used.  Good clothing and maps were required. 


Mrs Matthews asked whether they received any help with the provision of suitable clothing and was advised that NORLSAR had received a grant from the Geoffrey Watling fund and made applications for other grants that were available.


Mrs Spencer asked whether NORLSAR members had diving experience and assisted in river and sea searches.  She was advised that they provided a surface resource only – looking for people on the surface or assisting in flooding incidents.  They were able to support dive teams if requested.


Mr Sherwood asked if local people were ever requested to help with searches and was advised that because of safety issues and the lack of communications and equipment, that rarely happened.  However, they did sometimes give walkers and joggers the description of someone they were looking for.


Mr R Richmond asked if dogs were used for searching.  Mr Chamberlain advised that they did sometimes use police dogs and also had ‘air scenting’ dogs trained to search for missing people.  However, it took up to 600 hours to train such a dog which was a massive commitment in time and money.  Dogs were not always available.  They often had to rely on the ingenuity of their team members, especially in cases where they did not have all the equipment they needed.


The Chairman thanked Mr Chamberlain and Mr Webber for coming and hoped that the presentation had raised the profile of their work.