How volunteers play a vital role in Sussex’s search and rescue teams

When high risk vulnerable people go missing in Sussex, volunteers across the country are there to help.

Volunteers Week takes place from June 1 to 7
Volunteers Week takes place from June 1 to 7

Search teams such as Sussex Community Search Team (SCST) and Sussex Search and Rescue (SusSAR) are groups of trained and vetted search volunteers who assist in coordinated efforts, when requested by the police, to help locate missing people.

To mark Volunteers’ Week, Sussex Police is taking the opportunity to thank all their volunteers for their dedication and selfless commitment to protecting the public.

One volunteer, SCST member Terry Cunliffe, has explained why he joined the team.

“I wanted to give something back to the community, and what can be more important than helping to save somebody’s life?” he said.

“When called, I try to turn out whenever possible, and my family is very supportive of this.

“When we are able to help someone you get a fantastic feeling of a job well done.

He continued: “I have also been involved in training new police officers, by playing a range of roles, so they can learn how to deal with realistic situations in a risk free environment.

“With colleagues, we have given public order officers some challenging front line experience in handling large crowd situations.

“And in recent times, I am one of several searchers who week after week have supported the delivery of thousands of vital COVID-19 vaccinations at key centres.”

SCST Controller Paula Davis added: “I have belonged to the search team since its early days, and have loved every minute working alongside these enthusiastic and compassionate individuals operating at professional standards.

“I enjoy the team spirit, and this is probably the one thing that keeps me coming back time and time again - I consider these people as really good friends!

“I get great sense of satisfaction knowing that I can help families in their time of need.

“They are desperate to know that people are out looking for their loved ones, and we can do that!

“I enjoy the responsibility that comes with being a ‘Controller’, which means I liaise with police search advisors regarding areas to be searched, and then communicate with our teams ‘out in the field’ searching.

“It is a wonderful way to meet new, like-minded people.

“We get to be outside, often covering vast, varied areas of countryside, and all for a special, important purpose and shared intent.

“I love that I have been able to use my skills to help others.”

A spokesperson for SusSAR said: “Sussex Search & Rescue (SusSAR) is one of many Lowland Search and Rescue units which exist across the country.

“As a 100% volunteer organisation our members give their time free of charge and expect nothing in return but satisfaction from a job well done.

“We exist to serve the community of Sussex through the goodwill of our members and charitable donations.

“We can be called out by Sussex Police and neighbouring units at any time day or night.

“Our team is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year whatever the weather.

“We are professionally trained and qualified to high standards, and are a vital volunteer resource to Sussex Police.”

ACC Jayne Dando says: “I would like to thank all our volunteers for their commitment to protect the community, deliver an outstanding service and catch criminals.

“It is always a pleasure to be able to showcase the amazing work of Sussex Police, particularly our volunteers who make such a personal sacrifice giving their time to support our teams and on occasions putting themselves in harms’ way.

“Their enthusiasm and passion is infectious and I am keen to see them return as lifting of restrictions continues.”

Sussex Police would also like to thank volunteers at partners including Crimestoppers, Citizens Advice Witness Service, Sussex Resilience Forum, Search Dog Sussex, Neighbourhood Watch and National Coastwatch Institution, all of whom support Sussex Police.