The all-volunteer members of Escambia Search And Rescue are often called away from home, family events, work, and so on, to help others.  Occasionally we need help ourselves.  This is a true life story that happened to a member of Escambia Search And Rescue on Thanksgiving Thursday, 2017.

Imagine that you’re a single mom, busy cooking dinner on Thanksgiving.  Now imagine that for the last few minutes, you realize that you have not heard or seen one of your sons, who has Autism.  You ask your other son where his brother is, and he says “I don’t’ know, he got mad and ran off”.  A bolt of fear flies through you as you grab your keys and jump in the car.

Pulling off of your street, you see your son running down the road at a full run.  As he turns onto a side street that you know is a dead end, you think, “Well good, at least this is a dead end road, he has nowhere to go”.

As you turn onto that dead end road, your fears fly back as you see him dart into the wooded area at the end of the road.  The wooded area at the end of this road is made up of swamp and woods that cover about 25 square miles, and he was at a dead run as he left the roadway.

This type of situation occurs often all across the country.  Sometimes there is a happy reunion; sometimes there is a tragic ending.  Fortunately, this story does not end in tragedy thanks to a program called Project Lifesaver.

Project Lifesaver is a program for people who have a cognitive condition that may lead to wandering, and not being able to find their way home, or be safe (such as Autism, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc.).  They wear a small radio transmitter that constantly emits a radio signal that can be picked up by receivers that ESAR has distributed with certified Electronic Search Specialists around Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

The mom in the above scenario is a member of Escambia Search And Rescue, and is a certified Electronic Search Specialist.  She yells for her mom to call ESAR as she grabs her Project Lifesaver receiver and hits the woods.  Turning on the receiver, she immediately gets a beeping chirp, which tells her which way to go to her son.  As he changes direction time and time again, Project Lifesaver keeps telling mom which way to go, until she closes in on him about 75 yards deep in this thickly wooded, vine-choked area, and they both safely return home.

This situation was over in minutes, but without Project Lifesaver, this could have very easily turned into a multi-day search, involving hundreds of volunteers, and a multitude of public safety agencies.  That is just one of the values of Project Lifesaver.  You can figure up the value of volunteer man hours; you can figure up the value of public safety resources (law enforcement, fire, ems,  air support, etc.).  What you cannot put a value on is safely recovering a vulnerable child and bringing them home within minutes.

If you would like to know more about Project Lifesaver, please email Director@ESAR.com.

Success!!!!!

On October 02, in the middle of the day, an elderly female with Alzheimer's wandered away from her caregiver in a thickly congested commercial shopping area near Cordova Mall.  Fortunately, she was enrolled in Project Lifesaver, a LOCATING TECHNOLOGY in which ESAR is heavily involved.  ESAR volunteers quickly moved into the area and searched until picking up the radio signal from the transmitter worn by the missing female.  We were able to locate her, while she was wandering aimlessly around a large apartment complex.  She had fallen, and scraped her leg and forehead but was otherwise OK.  Total time from initial phone call from the caregiver to safely recovering the missing person was ONLY 22 MINUTES! 

On November 12th, after darkness had settled in, an elderly male with dementia wandered away from his caregivers in another busy commercial shopping area off of Davis Hwy.  Also, fortunately for him, he was enrolled in Project Lifesaver.  ESAR volunteers responded to the area.  His signal was picked up, and he was located about a mile away from where he was last seen.  His radio transmitter led searchers directly to him inside another big store.  He was not walking around outside, so would have been very hard to locate without all of the time and effort it would take to go into, and search the entire floor of every store and restaurant in the area.  Total time from initial phone call from the caregiver to safely recovering the missing person was ONLY 31 MINUTES!

A quick google search for "Missing Alzheimer's" or "Missing Autism" will bring up a multitude of news stories from around the country.  Some involve days of searching and hundreds of man hours, yet still end with the death or injury of a loved one.  This is why ESAR is so heavily involved in Project Lifesaver.

Project Lifesaver uses a small radio transmitter worn by a person with a wandering condition (Alzheimer's, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, Etc...).  Escambia Search And Rescue has 18 receivers distributed around Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties (from Pensacola to Cantonment to Pace to Gulf Breeze and Navarre).  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PROJECT LIFESAVER AND HOW TO ENROLL

On Saturday, April 16th, ESAR stayed pretty busy.  We were present at Diamondview Neighborhood Watch block party demonstrating Project Lifesaver.  Then, there was the Marine Ops / Dive mission where ESAR located a drowning victim using side imaging sonar.  During these events, there were members out practicing on the navigation course at UWF getting ready for the upcoming NASAR SAR Tech II certifications.  And to finish off the night, we were requested by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office at almost 11:00 pm for a missing Autistic 12 year old.  Happily, he was located shortly after they called us, and a Stand Down was sent right after the Call Out.  Overall it was a long, busy day.  Thank you to the volunteers willing to spend so much time and effort to help people in times of need.

On Saturday, April 16th, 2016, members of ESAR's Marine Ops Command and Dive Command were instrumental in locating a drowning victim utilizing side imaging sonar in the Intercoastal Waterway in the area of Fort McRee. ESAR Marine 1800 first located the victim, and confirmation was made by ESAR members aboard a Florida Fish and Wildlife vessel.  Escambia County Sheriff's Office Dive Team was on scene and recovered the victim.  ESAR members on scene reported that multiple agencies worked very well together during the search and recovery effort:  US Coast Guard; Florida FWC; Escambia County Sheriff's Office; US Navy; Escambia Fire Rescue; and other good Samaritans participated in the search.

http://www.pnj.com/story/news/local/2016/04/16/coast-guard-searching-missing-teen-near-pensacola/83128694/

ESAR Marine Operations stayed pretty busy last week.

  • Marine Ops Members attended a meet and greet at Mission Fishin' Angler's Night.
  • Then, all the following week, they provided boats for the on the water Human Remain Detection K9's attending the NNOCDS K9 Seminar from all across the country.
  • Next, Marine Ops had a boat in the water for the Kid's Fishing Clinic, assisted by a Rescue Swimmer from Dive Command, and members from other Commands keeping a watchful eye along the railing in case someone fell into the water.
  • And finally, as I type this, Marine Ops members are out on a mission.

With our proximity to water (rivers, bays, etc...), Marine Ops is generally one of our busier Commands, but this has been a busier than normal week.  Many thanks to the Marine Operations members and those from other Commands who support them.

ESAR's main workhorse vessel (a 1977 fishing vessel donated in the 1980's) is out of service because it is has become unsafe to operate and increasingly expensive to maintain in mission ready condition.  A replacement that is much more suitable for Search And Rescue has been located, but we need help with funding.  Please click on the link below to help us fund a replacement vessel so that we can continue to provide much needed services to the community.

https://www.gofundme.com/esarboat

ESAR members, if you obtained your SARTECH II or III certification before January 01, 2013, YOU MUST RE-CERTIFY BY January 01, 2016.  The training / mission hours criteria should be all you need.  For now, you just need to present a training / mission log ONLY IF IT IS REQUESTED by NASAR.  There are blank log sheets at ESAR formatted the way NASAR wants them to be, for you to complete and keep track of your hours.

You can click on the "How to Re-certify" link below for a video that walks you through how to re-certify for NASAR SARTECH.  This video shows how to re-certify SARTECH II, but the process is the same for SARTECH III or SARTECH I.

How To Re-certify

If you have any questions, please contact your Commander.  There is a cost that can be reimbursed by ESAR, just bring in your receipt.  If you need help with the cost initially (instead of waiting for reimbursement), we can make that happen.