U.S. Search and Recovery Rescue Corps team adapts to modern obstacles
In the four decades since Ron Wisbith founded the U.S. Search and Recovery Rescue Corps, the need for expertise in searching for missing people has changed and increased.
“Alzheimer's disease afflicts many people and often causes people to wander. Another big problem is autism. Rates of autism are much higher than they were,” said Wisbith, 78, leader of the Beaver Falls-based U.S. SARR.
The group's success is dependent on training and practice, which its volunteers did on Sunday in a simulated training search for a missing man in Beaver Falls. It took the 15 volunteers about 90 minutes to find the man.
“It went well. We learned a lot,” Wisbith said.
Wisbith started the group with three fellow Boy Scout leaders who wanted to do more with the outdoor skills they were teaching and demonstrating.
“He is a great guy. He knows more about search and rescue than just about anyone. It's his life,” said Mike Beach, a volunteer from Steubenville, Ohio, and a professor of nursing at the University of Pittsburgh.
The group has responded to between 400 and 500 missing-person searches, disasters and other incidents, including seven cases of child abduction. It responded to an Armenian earthquake, mudslides in Puerto Rico, a missing college student caught in a flash flood in Texas, flash floods in Petersburg, W. Va., and a tornado in Beaver County.
The group's members served with the American Red Cross in Waveland and Pearlington, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. SARR covers Columbiana, Mahoning, Jefferson and Summit counties in Ohio, along with Lawrence and Beaver counties.
The group relies entirely on volunteers, although Wisbith said that term is almost a misnomer.
“Everyone here has been through a lot of training. They are really professional volunteers,” Wisbith said.
Getting people to volunteer is not always easy, he said.
“It's a big commitment that only certain people are willing to make,” he said.
The group's training takes two years, after which time search, rescue and recovery technicians can get specialized training for tasks such as dog-assisted searches.
“You have to be professional and rely on your training to do this,” said Kathy Adamle, a volunteer from Kent, Ohio, and a professor of nursing at Kent State University.
Adamle is the owner of four search-and-rescue dogs. She said urban searches like Sunday's are often more difficult than searches in more remote areas.
“There are so many places to look for someone in a built-up area. It's also harder for dogs. Hard surfaces do not hold odors very well,” she said.
No two searches are ever alike, said Beach, who has been a volunteer since 1991.
Although looking for people with mental impairments is a challenge, Beach said searching for people who are suicidal is even more difficult.
“They know what they are doing and usually do not want anyone to find them,” he said.
The Justice Department's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System tracks as many as 100,000 active missing-person cases at any given time. Each year, 4,400 unidentified human remains are found.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow causes roof to collapse at Crawford County plastics plant
- Wolf to outline charter school plan in budget address
- 1 killed in Lawrence County tractor-trailer crash
- As House looks to dismantle state stores, hybrid system might be option
- ‘Tipping point’ near for Pa. government, conservative expert predicts at Freedom Forum
- Husband charged in ax murder of wife hangs himself in cell
- 242 Pennsylvania workers not state residents