A local charity that helps to track down missing vulnerable people has been boosted by the addition of a new Incident Control Unit.
Warwickshire Search and Rescue (WarkSAR), which is run entirely by volunteers, took possession of the specially-adapted Mercedes Benz Sprinter Panel van last month, which will be used to co-ordinate its search and rescue missions across the county and beyond.
This week the new vehicle’s capabilities were demonstrated to Alex Franklin-Smith, Deputy Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police, during a visit to the force’s headquarters in Leek Wootton.
Mr Franklin-Smith said: “The life-saving specialist services that Warwickshire Search and Rescue provide communities in our county are invaluable.
“Warwickshire Police, and many other local services who work together as part of our Local Resilience Forum to prepare and respond to major and critical incidents, will significantly benefit from the availability of this additional specialist equipment.
“On behalf of Warwickshire Police, I welcome this investment and look forward to seeing the additional levels of protection this will provide to keep people safe in Warwickshire.”
The new van was purchased following two years of fundraising activities and replaces WarkSAR’s previous vehicle, a former police riot van donated by the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner in 2015.
Ian Malins, chair of WarkSAR, said the vehicle had served them well, but had started to show its age and needed replacing.
“When we got the van it still had riot screens and toughened glass windows,” he said. “Some of our handy members did a great job of converting it into a mobile office on a small budget, and we even kept the prisoner cage in the back for secure storage!”
The new vehicle is rather more fit for purpose. Purchased from Midlands Truck and Van, it has been adapted to the 75-strong team’s specifications by Cartwright Conversions. The fit out includes office-type space for Search Managers to use when managing callouts, two laptop docking stations, WiFi connectivity and a digital radio for secure communication with search teams. There’s even a built-in generator to charge up radio and drone batteries as well as boil water for volunteers’ drinks.
“We expect the new van to give us 15-20 years of service, so we needed to get a really good job done on the fit out and make it worth the massive fundraising effort,” added Mr Malins.
“We also couldn’t have done it without a number of generous donations, which included grants and funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, Warwickshire Police Community Fund and the High Sheriff of Warwickshire.
“We’ve now started to train all our drivers so they are comfortable and safe driving what is quite a large van and also know how to quickly set it up ready to operate when we get called out.”
Philip Seccombe, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, said: “I’ve been delighted to be able to support Warwickshire Search and Rescue with funding to help both the purchase of the vehicle and its subsequent equipping.
“Both myself and my Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner have taken part in training sessions with the team, so I know first-hand the dedication and expertise the volunteers all have.
“Policing regularly calls on the assistance of the lowland search teams for assistance in finding vulnerable missing persons, both on land and on our inland waterways. They provide skills, expertise and equipment that would not otherwise be readily available to Warwickshire Police, so Warwickshire SAR has been a very deserved recipient of my Grants Funding over several years.”