“Years ago they used to have a search and rescue team,” Lt. Robert Moultrie said. “Then over the years, of course, the dynamics of the county and the priorities have changed. It kind of fizzled out. It was generally left to the resources of the sheriff’s posse … and they would handle it.”
The original SRT operated in the late 1980s, but training tapered off and members lost interest.
“That was the problem. They didn’t train. They were just called out when they were needed. Well, they lost interest because it was far and few between,” said Lt. Randy Stewart, who will head up the team with Moultrie.
Utilized for search and recovery of lost or missing persons, natural disasters or evidence recovery, the Search and Recovery Team receives monthly training, including classroom time and in-the-field experience. Members will learn basic land navigation skills, basic search and rescue tactics and first aid.
Stewart said the agency is looking for members with an array of skills and equipment. Former military, those with medical training, wilderness survivalists, and those with all-terrain vehicles, horses, watercraft or four-wheel-drive vehicles are just a few of the assets the team is looking for. Sworn department personnel also are encouraged to apply.
BCSO Criminal Investigations Division Maj. Doug Duncan said many within the community may be interested in an opportunity such as the SRT.
“There are people out here that live and breathe search and rescue, wilderness survival, that know how to do that. We have people here who know how to train them,” he said. “But we also have people in the community of over 100,000 people who say, ‘Hey, I could actually help do that.’ … All they are wanting is someone to ask.”
Now the department is asking.
“Everybody has something to offer and everybody has a stake in it. It could be their daughter that’s lost or their son that is missing or their father that wandered off,” Moultrie said.
Those interested in volunteering will go through an application process that includes a background check and a physical fitness test. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, 18 years of age, have a valid driver’s license and proof of liability insurance among other qualifications.
SRT members will not have law enforcement capabilities.
Both Moultrie and Stewart said the increase in occurrences requiring such a group spurred the BCSO into action.
“It really wasn’t until this past year, when we’ve had a couple incidents involving persons lost in the woods or lost in the wilderness environment, that it became apparent that we didn’t have the organization and the planning and resources to be able to set up and manage this thing as quickly as possible,” Moultrie said.
“As the population has grown here in the county, theses incidences are becoming more and more frequent. It’s nice to have, whether you need them or not, but then if you need them but don’t have them, then you have a problem,” Stewart added.
Calling the volunteer effort an “untapped resource,” Moultrie hopes to have the SRT in place and ready to operate by Jan. 1.
“When you are getting calls for service [during a search and recovery] and you have detectives working cases and priorities change a little bit and you start pulling them in for resources then it takes away from the calls for service and everything like that,” he said. “… My philosophy has always been law enforcement is only as effective as the community that supports it.
“I know from working investigations that there are people out there who want to do more, who want to participate, who want to feel like they are part of making Bartow County a better place to live.”
For more information or an application, call Moultrie at 770-382-5050, extension 6021, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Stewart at 770-382-5050, extension 6064, or email him at email@example.com.
The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office is resurrecting its Search and Recovery Team and is looking for volunteers. Among the minimum requirements a full list is available from the BCSO for non-sworn volunteers are:
• Have a high school diploma or GED. Waivers may be possible.
• Pay $50 annual due, which is renewed June 30.
• Attain certification for ground search and rescue.
• Properly register as a disaster service worker under the provisions of the Emergency Services Act or the Community Emergency Response Team.
• Attend search and rescue-related training.
• Conform to the policies and procedures of the BCSO.
• Provide and carry required equipment on all team and squad callouts.
• Access to email.