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Essex Search & Rescue celebrated their 20th birthday and marked the exceptional dedication of their members at Essex Police headquarters.
Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington and Lord Lieutenant of Essex Jennifer Tolhurst paid tribute to the group who assist the police by searching for missing and vulnerable people.
ESAR is staffed by 70 volunteers who are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Their specialist ground search, water, dog, drone, and mountain bike teams have conducted 177 searches alongside the police since the start of 2020.
Chairman Steve Jarrett was given a specially commissioned plaque by the force to mark ESAR’s anniversary and many of the team were awarded certificates for 1,000 and 2,000 hours of voluntary service.
In total, those recognised on the night had given more than 32,000 hours of their time to help the people of Essex.
Speaking at the event, Chief Constable Harrington said the “hugely important partnership” between ESAR and the police had helped save many lives.
He told the volunteers: “You are such a great example of how people who live in community can help to keep the community safe.
“You all have jobs or families or other commitments but when that call comes, no matter the weather, the time of day or night, or how far you have to travel, you are there to help those who are missing, vulnerable or injured.
“Please accept our thanks for the support you give and all the work you do, and congratulations on reaching 20 years.”
ESAR chairman Steve Jarrett said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate 20 years of supporting the emergency services in Essex and the great people we have who volunteer with us. It takes a lot to be part of this team, and a lot of emotional commitment.
“We are entirely not-for-profit and don’t cost the taxpayer a penny, so for us to provide the service we do is something to be incredibly proud of.”
Matt Cloke, ESAR’s search manager and head of operations, has clocked up nearly 3,000 hours of service over 18 years. A chartered surveyor by day, Matt believes the sense of achievement the team experience on a successful search is hard to beat.
He said: “We go out in the rain, mud and snow but when we find someone who is missing who may have dementia or be undergoing a person crisis, and we get them safely home to their family, it gives us a great deal of satisfaction. There isn’t a feeling like it.
“A lot of the work we do does go slightly unsung because we want to respect their privacy of the people we’re helping, but we know what we do makes a difference.”
T/Inspector Simon Gray of Specialist Operations works closely with ESAR and hopes the relationship continues to flourish.
He said: “They are absolutely invaluable. When it comes to high risk missing people, I don’t know what the force would do without them. When call our contact and within a very short space of time we have 20 or more volunteers who will turn up wherever they’re needed across the county to help us search.
“Every time they come out, I thank them, but words aren’t enough for the amazing job they do.”
Essex Search & Rescue are a registered charity who are funded entirely by donations. If you would like to donate to help them pay for training or life-saving equipment, or offer you time as a volunteer, visit their website essexsearchandrescue.org.uk.
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