Maine’s search and rescue volunteers hone skills

Volunteer search-and-rescue personnel from across the state brushed up on their skills at the University of Maine in Orono during a two-day convention on Saturday and Sunday, May 17-18. During one session, a Navy survival evasion resistance and escape instructor taught participants how to use a map, compass and global positioning system to conduct a large-scale search.
Volunteer search-and-rescue personnel from across the state brushed up on their skills at the University of Maine in Orono during a two-day convention on Saturday and Sunday, May 17-18. During one session, a Navy survival evasion resistance and escape instructor taught participants how to use a map, compass and global positioning system to conduct a large-scale search. Buy Photo
Posted May 18, 2014, at 5:29 p.m.
Last modified May 18, 2014, at 9:15 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — When someone goes missing in Maine, game wardens, police and families often turn to a pool of regular volunteers spread across the state for help.

Some of those men and women brushed up on their skills over the weekend at the University of Maine.

About 80 search-and-rescue volunteers representing most of the 15 groups under the Maine Association for Search and Rescue participated in an annual two-day training conference hosted by Maine Mounted Search and Rescue.

“At a search, depending on what you’re searching for, it can be extremely emotionally draining,” said Melissa Looman of the horse-mounted search crew. “To be able to take that piece out of it and train and hone your skills helps so much.”

Teams participated in a variety of scenarios. One had searchers out at night, looking for a fictional missing child by following a trail of planted toys and food items. At the end of the trail, organizers left behind signs of a scuffle, indicating the child may have been kidnapped.

Volunteers also learned how to use a radio to communicate appropriately and give out the right information about a search. Others got an in-depth look at GPS technology and the behavior patterns of individuals who are lost, according to Sharon Kenney-Pomeroy of Maine Mounted Search and Rescue.

Teams attending the conference came from several regions of the state. Some specialized in searches using dogs or horses. Others were specially trained in rope rescues, others in searches on ground or water.

During the first day of the weekend conference, an Old Town man was reported missing by his family. The man arrived home later that night and police officials never reached the point where they had to call for volunteers, but it’s not unusual for this conference to end early because someone is missing.

It has happened in several recent years, including last year after Nichole Cable went missing in Glenburn. Rescuers say they bring all their equipment in their vehicles, just in case they get called into action.

“Nobody complains when we get called to a search, because that’s what we’re here to do,” Looman said.

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