Volunteers' Week - Lowland Rescue

This week it’s National Volunteers’ Week in the UK, an annual event which takes place on 1-7 June.  It celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK.  We want to share the stories of some of the volunteers we are proud to work with.

By Chris Weigh

After 30 years in the police I know only too well how important volunteers are to the Emergency Services and to protecting the public.  So when the National Volunteers’ Week came along it felt like a great opportunity to single out a particular group of volunteers who don’t usually receive the publicity they deserve.

Lowland Rescue (ALSAR) are often overlooked in favour of their better known cousins the ‘Mountain Rescue’ teams; both organisations share the same aims and have great people who give up their time to search for people with mental health problems, dementia and learning disabilities.  As police budgets become ever more stretched and the thin blue line becomes ever thinner, these supporting volunteers become more and more crucial to the Emergency Services.  Often when searching for missing people the ability to declare an area as clear and not containing the missing person is as important as actually finding them as limited police resources can be re-directed elsewhere.  This is what the people of Lowland Rescue do so well. The Foot and Bike teams, the specialist Flood and Boat teams, and of course the dogs are a valuable resource in Lowland Rescue because they use scent to locate the missing person, this means they can find someone who is out of sight.  In 2013 their 33 national teams saved 69 lives – need I say anymore.

It’s great to reflect on how the private sector are supporting these vital volunteer services.  I recently spent a very insightful morning on an exercise with Lowland Rescue where I met a great bunch of people, their professionalism and dedication was staggering and, together with colleagues from O2, I saw for myself how technology can make a huge difference to their work.  O2 have some great people who can help volunteer organisations not just in the obvious use of technology to provide the right information at the right time but also in areas such as awareness raising using social media.  You can watch a video filmed on the day below.

Yesterday we heard that our Emergency Services Volunteer partners at ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex 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.  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.  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 Lowland Rescue (especially those in Sussex) from O2.  We love what you do.

O2 is proud to support ALSAR with their essential technology needs.  With ALSAR, opening up the possibilities of technology isn’t just important; it really can make the difference between life and death.

Hear from the volunteers on what makes them give up their time to save others.  Could you be the next Lowland Rescue volunteer? Visit the Lowland Rescue website to see the many roles and take a look at their Vacancies page for opportunities.