Volunteers train to be managers for Middle Creek Search and Rescue

Volunteers train on how to manage searches.
Volunteers train on how to manage searches.

CLAY TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY (WHTM) – You see them in your neighborhood or on TV when a child wanders away from home or when an Alzheimer’s patient disappears.

ABC27 News got a behind-the-scenes look at how search and rescue teams train to keep you and the people you love safe.

Middle Creek Search and Rescue helps police and firefighters in missing person searches in South Central Pennsylvania counties.

A rubber chicken has been squeaking in this class for years. It’s often used to signal the end or change in an exercise.

Trainers cry foul as they role play difficult personalities, such as a loud-mouthed politician or an overly-concerned grandmother.

“It’s day two of a four-day class on managing search operations,” said Kenneth Bechtel II, 1st assistant chief of Middle Creek Search and Rescue.

Students like Tony Heidbreder learned how to manage people and work with resources and maps at a Sunday session.

“We can understand the terrain better,” Heidbreder said. “We’re determining search areas based on loss person behavior statistics.”

“We’re trying to put them in real-world situations with real-world stresses in a controlled environment, so when they get out there, they’re ready for what the world throws at them,” Bechtel said.

Students training to become search managers learned how to divide maps into sections for different groups of searchers. They also explored how different people, such as a child or hunter, may behave differently while lost.

“This isn’t a segment. This is a region. A is too big to search in four hours. We’re going to subdivide A up,” retired Chief Jim Stephens said as he instructed the class.

“The more knowledge these people have, the better coordinated it’s going to be,” Bechtel said. “We treat every search as a potential crime scene because you never know what’s going to happen out there.”

The organization needs people, as well as horse and dog teams, to join. It’s preferred your dog be less than three years old. For more information on how to volunteer, click here.


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