Far North Search & Rescue Inc.


Professional Volunteer Search Team Serving the Far North of New Zealand

What to do if someone is missing…

Volunteer SAR organizations like Far North SAR cannot initiate a search: the Police call us and we respond. There are very good legal reasons for this system, so if you call us directly we will be sympathetic but you will get us into the field faster by calling the police.

Information to gather

If you believe someone you know is missing, and before you phone the police, this is what you should do:

Determine if the person is really lost. Sometimes people change their plans or return from a trip without letting anyone know, check with friends and relatives for any information. If the missing person is a child, see section below for hints.

Gather information about the problem before you contact the Police:

The person’s name;

A description of the person including age;

A description of any vehicles, clothing or equipment;

Where they were going and what time they were supposed to be back;

What you have done to locate them;

Any special problems they may have (medical conditions, unfamiliarity with the area, car in bad shape, emotional problems, lack of appropriate clothing, etc.). Please don’t withhold information because it might be embarrassing, that one item could give the search manager the additional clue he/she needs to deploy the search teams accurately.

Who to call?

With the above information in hand, phone 111 and tell the operator that you need Police.

And then …

Let the professionals handle it. This may be the hardest thing you ever do in your life. Police and SAR procedures may seem like a waste of time when you want to run into the bush to look for a loved one, but following the system greatly reduces the chance that anything will be overlooked. Well-meaning friends and family trying to help in a search have destroyed many valuable clues such as footprints. Your most valuable role is as a source of information for the search managers.

Lost children

A surprising number of young children who were last seen in the house or garden are found either asleep or playing quietly. The best way to search is to pretend you are looking for something the size of a cat: look in bedding, piles of clothing, laundry hampers, cupboards, closets, under decks, under beds and in furniture. Children have been found in closed dresser drawers or hiding among boxes in the basement. Ask neighbours if they have seen the child, and ask them to check their houses, garden sheds and garages. Don’t forget to check the boot and backseats of cars and any neighbourhood tree houses!

How long should you wait before calling for help?

There are no hard and fast rules about how long you should wait after you think a person is overdue before you call for help. For example, if you can’t find a child within an hour or so it is time to call for assistance. But an experienced tramper who is 6 hours overdue from a 2-week trip might not be quite so worrisome. It depends on the people, how prepared they are, the weather, medical conditions, etc.

But please remember this:
Everyone in Search and Rescue would rather be called out and have the missing person show up five minutes later, than be called out too late.

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