Logo Symbol Alpenverein Innsbruck, Ortsgruppe Melbourne

Search And Rescue Volunteers (Search And Rescue)

Österreichischer Alpenverein
Ortsgruppe Melbourne

Search And Rescue Volunteers

BSAR Training

BSAR Alpine Training

Search and rescue in Victoria is the responsibility of Victoria Police.  However when people are lost in the remote or rough terrain, the Victoria Police Search and Rescue Squad may request assistance from Bush Search and Rescue Victoria (BSAR).

BSAR is a dedicated group of hikers, mountaineers and backcountry enthusiasts who assist Victoria Police in searching for lost people. It was formed in 1949 after the Police were impressed by the professionalism of volunteer hikers who were involved in an extended search at Wilsons Promontory. Since then, BSAR has provided volunteer search and rescue services to the people of Victoria on over 100 occasions with a raising call-out rate in recent years.

BSAR has the ability to send out small, self-sufficient search groups, which can navigate rough and challenging terrain without landmarks and stay out overnight.  This is what sets BSAR apart from most other volunteer search and rescue organisations.

The community needs more hikers, mountaineers, backcountry enthusiasts and other people experienced in the bush for this role!

How to join

First of all thanks for thinking about joining BSAR. There is a lot of research available about missing person behaviour which clearly indicates that up-scaling a search at its early stages leads to better outcomes hence why the Victorian Police SAR Squad is calling out BSAR volunteers more often.  

To join Bush Search and Rescue Victoria you must be a member of Bushwalking Victoria, either as a member of a club or as an individual member. Since the Alpenverein is an associate club of Bushwalking Victoria, every Alpenverein member can join BSAR if they fulfil the entry requirements. Joining isn't very complicated, making the decision to join is probably the biggest hurdle:

  • Check the BSAR website and see if you fulfil the entry requirements 
  • Contact the Alpenverein's BSAR club delegate to ask any questions and put your name forward
  • The Alpenverein's committee will decide whether your application is successful
  • The Alpenverein's BSAR club delegate will forward your application to BSAR 

That's already it! 

Visit the Bush Search and Rescue Victoria website to find out more details details about the entry guidelines and training events.

What to expect

Once your application has been accepted and submitted to the BSAR membership secretary, you'll get a confirmation. Our club delegate will also put you in touch with other Alpenverein BSAR members where you can ask more questions learn more what it means to be a BSAR volunteer. The baseline for your expectation should be BSAR's unofficial motto:

"We search scrubby gullies!"

On that fun-note let's dig a bit deeper and have a look at a typical call-out. This is just a general overview and you'll find much more detail in the BSAR manual which is available on the BSAR website.

BSAR Call-outs

As mentioned earlier the number of call-outs has increased in the past few years which means you can expect a call-out more often however there is no obligation to respond to a call-out. 

From the BSAR manual: 
"As a volunteer you are not compelled to make yourself available and you should only do so if no serious inconvenience would result, if you are in good health and if your equipment is up to standard."

Call-Out
Although there might be a call-out on very short notice, you usually get a bit of a warning. The Police SAR Squad is planning the search tasks in advance for the next day and this is when you get a message if they decide to call for BSAR volunteers. This often happens in the afternoon to evening. You'll get a text, an email and a robo-call. The email has the most information although that might not be much. If you chose not to attend the call-out simply don't respond. This avoids unnecessary messages.  

Unofficial Signet

Signet of the Alpenverein's BSAR members

Preparing
Once you responded to the call-out and got the confirmation that you're on the call-out, it's time to pack your gear. Special equipment is either provided by BSAR or by Police (e.g. GPS units, radios or avalanche beacons). The BSAR manual has a detailed equipment list however as an experienced multi-day hiker nothing on there will be much of a surprise for you. 

Transport
In your reply to the call-out you had to specify the pick-up location which suits you best. The general pick-up times are very early morning so the search party will be available at first light. The transport itself is a bus organised by Police which has a couple of advantages including you can have another snooze, the Field Organiser can brief you on the way and allocate everyone in search groups.

Search 
The Police SAR Squad is in charge and will assign certain tasks to the BSAR via the Field Organiser which then instructs the group leaders. Once these tasks are completed, your group will be assigned another task. However if new information comes to light, your group might get re-deployed during your task. Nothing is as constant as the change of situation during a search.In the end it is important to keep yourself fed and hydrated. Sometimes there is catering available at search-base so don't be shy. If you've served, this should be very familiar.

Conclusion of the Search
Once the search concludes, make sure you return all of the BSAR and Police equipment. This is the time where your group leaders appreciate your help to get the gear back into cases and get everything organised so the post search gear check doesn't take too long. 

Peer Support
From time to time, BSAR members may be involved in incidents that put a strain on their normal ability to cope. The Peer Support Program has been established to assist searchers who may be affected by a particular event. The trained Peer Supporters also have a sound understanding of the operations of BSAR. The Alpenverein strongly encourages you to take up this offer after every search and at least have a chat with our Peer Supporters even it search had a positive outcome and everything is fine. 


Social Media Reminder

Although everyone has a camera in their phone these days, BSAR has a strict media policy which includes social media. Don't post anything search related or let information enter the public domain because it can be detrimental to the individuals, the search, Police investigations and BSAR.

However you can share any posts from the BSAR website or BSAR facebook page. Any information there has been cleared through the proper channels and this way you're on the safe side. 

Past Searches

Although almost all members of BSAR are experienced hikers and bushwalkers, searches quite often don't involve looking for lost or missing hikers. Searches include looking for children who walked off from a campsite, elderly or demented persons, hunters or disabled persons. Depending on the missing person's profile the search needs to be adapted and this is handle by Police; BSAR members will be briefed accordingly. 

The following numbers only represent the searches where BSAR were involved. Besides giving searchers an idea of what to expect, they are not valuable and can't be generalised for missing persons. 

  • Most BSAR searches result in the missing person being located alive (>60%)
  • Some searches result in the missing person not being found (about 15%)
  • In the remainder of the cases the missing person is found deceased
  • The vast majority of BSAR searches happen in the east of Victoria in rugged terrain

Especially the last point is important and emphasises why experienced outdoor enthusiasts are always welcome as new BSAR searchers. If you want to know more, talk to your club delegate or check out the BSAR website.

Map of past BSAR Call-Outs

blue - person found alive | yellow - missing | red - deceased

Full-screen version of this map

 
 
 

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