On the evening of March 27, 2021, an elderly resident walked away from a senior living facility in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. Peter Garland, Deputy Fire Chief of the Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Company, was assigned Search Team Manager, and local police and fire departments prepared to get the search underway.
As it happened, Garland was in the middle of TEEX’s three-day Wide Area Search class during the very weekend this incident occurred. Having already experienced two days of the course, he was at home preparing to get some sleep when he got the call about a missing person. Little did he know, he would soon get a chance to practice the very strategies he had just learned.
From his participation in the course, Garland knew that to perform an effective search, he would have to segment the township into areas and then assign personnel to each segment. First, he took a map of the township and identified the missing person’s last known location and anticipated maximum distance traveled based on weather conditions and reported physical limitations. He then divided the map into areas to be searched in a prioritized and organized manner. Using the map as a guide, Garland and his team determined resource needs and requested additional assistance.
Garland and his team were able to complete a full primary search of exterior areas of the township in just 4 hours, but they did not find the missing person. Therefore, using the same mapped plan approach, a secondary search took place, and within the first 60 minutes of this secondary search, the missing person was safely located.
Garland said the practices he put into play during that search came from “information that I had learned in the Wide Area Search class that day. The skills I learned during the first portion of the Wide Area Search class were instrumental in ensuring that an effective and efficient search was performed. I further believe that the positive outcome of this search was directly related to the command and control of the operation that was guided by the teachings of the class.”