Many people have seen search and rescue operations on TV where a crew goes out into a wooded area, finds the missing person within minutes, and everyone cheers.
“But, true searches aren’t like that,” says Michelle Eaton, Assistant Chief of NWPA K-9 Search and Rescue. “True searches are a lot of work behind the scenes. So, some of that work includes interviewing the family. And you’re interviewing the family on one of their worst days because all they can think is ‘Oh my gosh, hurry up and get somebody in the field.'”
The Northwest Pennsylvania K-9 Search and Rescue Team is a volunteer-based organization that helps local police and fire crews find missing persons. They focus primarily on Northwestern Pennsylvania but have helped in searches as far as West Virginia.
They specialize in searching some of the most difficult terrains in the region. Adam Gatti, Chief of the Search and Rescue, says, “Woods and rocks and creeks and reservoirs… those are the kinds of things we have to contend with when we go out on a search.”
As the search and rescue team in Washington continues their search for Samantha Sayers, this search and rescue team tells us hikers are one of the hardest categories of people to find once they’re lost. Which is why it’s so important to gather information before deploying their resources.
Eaton says, “Is there an area that the family says, ‘Oh, they always hike to this trail’, and ‘They always go to this spot, it’s their favorite to overlook the world’, or if you’re looking at different types of personalities of people, certain people have a tendency to wander to certain types of areas.”
The NWPA K-9 Search and Rescue Team is made up of 15 volunteers, including dog handlers, field searches, and an FAA-licensed drone pilot. They hope to continue to expand their team in the coming years, but for now, they are sending positive thoughts to the team in Washington searching for Sam Sayers. And, also to her family, hoping she returns home safe.
Gatti says, “You know it’s important for the community to stay focused on them and continue to lend your thoughts and prayers and support to those people now because they need it and it means a lot to them.”
To follow the progress of that search, use #FindSamSayers on social media. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a volunteer with the Northwest Pennsylvania K-9 Search and Rescue Team, you can go to www.nwpak9sar.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.