SEARCH and rescue volunteers in Wiltshire experienced their “busiest year ever” but funding challenges lie ahead.

In 2020, Wiltshire Search and Rescue, was called out 165 times – an increase of more than 100 compared to 2019.

On average volunteers gave 16,172 of hours to their community. There were nine callouts to Salisbury areas and 21 throughout the south Wiltshire area.

The first call-out of 2021 took place at just a few minutes past midnight into the new year with volunteers deployed near Warminster.

Adrian Sawyer, the chair of Wiltshire Search and Rescue, says it has been its “busiest year ever” adding: “The global pandemic has challenged everyone across the county and our volunteers have been able to support where needed, be on call for our searching tasks and our expertise has been used on a number of occasions. I’m proud of the efforts of every one of our volunteers and know that we will continue to be here when our community needs us most.”

“The increase in call-outs is a combination of a tough year, with people’s mental health being affected by the global pandemic. It is also a result of continued close, highly-professional working relationships with the emergency services and a renewed focus for the volunteers on being adaptable to a variety of asks. During a difficult year for everyone, the team members were on-hand to find, rescue and treat vulnerable missing people.” he added.

They also supported hospitals and provided a no-notice service to move vital equipment such as ventilators. Team members also joined other voluntary organisations to assist Wiltshire Council with welfare checks.

Fundraising was particularly challenging in 2020 for the charity, which receives no regular statutory funding, with many events being cancelled.

Adrian said: “We are proud of the volunteering that we do and 2020 saw some challenging, emotional and rewarding searches for our team. We are also so grateful for everyone who has given £1 or £10,000 towards the cause. We have to fundraise every penny we need including headlight bulbs, bandages, head torches and maps. Fundraising is as vital as our search work because it is what keeps us able to help when our community needs us most. We continue to need help in this area so please offer what you can.”

Chief Constable, Wiltshire Police, Kier Pritchard said: “We are extremely grateful to every member of Wiltshire Search and Rescue. They work tirelessly and without reward to support our officers and staff with our work to find and help vulnerable missing people.

“It never ceases to amaze me that there is a whole cohort of volunteers who wait by their phones to leap into action as soon as we call. We thank you all for everything you do for Wiltshire and beyond.”

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