ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex recognised with Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

We’re incredibly proud to learn that our Emergency Services Volunteer partners at the Association of Lowland Search And Rescue (ALSAR) have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK, making it the MBE for volunteer groups.

ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex is a voluntary group which works in the community to assist the police in searching for missing and vulnerable people.  Founded in 2003 following the disappearance of Sarah Payne,  the Search and Rescue dog team assist the police in looking for missing vulnerable people across Sussex and the neighbouring counties.  The team provides a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, on call service to the police providing nationally qualified search dogs, handlers and personal support.  They are capable of deploying at any time of the day and night, in all weather conditions and terrain.  On average the team are called upon for help 25-30 times a year, commonly searching for people with mental health problems, dementia and learning disabilities. The team currently has 19 members who come from all walks of life from airline pilot to landscape gardener. They come together one day a week to train in a variety of rural locations across Sussex.  There are 10 dogs who are made up of border collies, spaniels, a terrier and a number of cross breads.  Their dogs are recruited from a beginners course run by the team that anyone can attend to see if their dog has a talent for search work.  The dogs are a valuable resource in lowland search because they use scent to locate the missing person, this means they can find someone who is out of sight. For example, the team recently located a missing person at the bottom of a steep bank who was completely hidden in brambles when search dog Cain detected the scent of the man and led the team down to him.

Steve Ball (Chairman) along with his daughter Tania Ball and Sharon Plowright from ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace on the 20 May 2015 where they met the Queen and other winners of this year’s award.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work in their communities. The awards were created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and winners are announced each year on 2 June – the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.  Award winners this year range from Ablaze, a charity helping to raise academic achievement amongst disadvantaged young people in Bristol to a volunteer rescue boat service on Loch Lomond.

ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex will receive the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex later this summer.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Committee Chair, former broadcast journalist Martyn Lewis CBE said “I warmly congratulate all of the inspirational voluntary groups who have been rewarded for their community work with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The judging panel for this year’s awards were struck by the quality and breadth of all the successful groups. The thousands of volunteers who give up spare time to help others in their community and to help solve problems demonstrate the best of democracy in action.”

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said “I would like to congratulate all groups who received this year’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, in recognition of their fantastic achievements. The hard work and commitment that goes into the work of these organisations is surpassed only by the passion and motivation of the individuals who volunteer. I hope these groups continue to inspire others to get involved and make a positive impact so that we can continue to build a bigger, stronger society.”

Chairman of ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex, Steve Ball, said “This highly prestigious award represents fantastic recognition for the many years of dedicated service given freely by members of the search and rescue dog team and our much loved search dogs who work just as hard!. We train for literally 100’s of hours both day and night to provide Sussex with a professional nationally qualified search and rescue capability. I thoroughly recommend anybody considering this type of volunteering to get in touch with us. We have many different roles within the search team and by working alongside the other emergency services you would be part of a bigger team that often makes the difference between life and death for the vulnerable missing person.”

O2 is proud to support ALSAR with their essential technology needs.  O2 was lucky enough to be invited to a recent Lowland Search and Rescue demonstration, read more about it in the article ‘The search is on’.  With ALSAR, opening up the possibilities of technology isn’t just important; it really can make the difference between life and death.

A total of 187 groups have received the 2015 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service today and as this week is National Volunteers’ Week in the UK, it’s the perfect time to celebrate the contribution made by volunteers across the UK. A huge congratulations to everyone at ALSAR from O2.  We love what you do.