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News Archive > General > Volunteer rescue team braving all conditions

Volunteer rescue team braving all conditions

By Jacob Double 6th January 2021

Volunteer rescue team braving all conditions
The East Cornwall Search and Rescue Team, based in Bodmin, is made up of volunteers. Above, they took part in the evacuation of Lostwithiel when it flooded last month

In the heart of Bodmin there is a little-known, life-saving charity that acts as the town’s very own emergency service.

The East Cornwall Search and Rescue Team is a local charity made entirely of volunteers, from all backgrounds, who provide an inland rescue service similar to that of the coastguard.

From scaling the mountains of the moors, finding missing people, supporting community events and rescuing the victims of flooding, they are out in all weathers helping the people of Bodmin and beyond.

“We are a relatively new charity actually,” team leader Zac Brewer told the Bodmin Voice. “Previously Cornwall was covered by one search and rescue team that covered from the Isles of Scilly to Saltash. But back in 2014 the team voted to become two separate sections and separate charities - West Cornwall and East Cornwall.

“We were based in St Dennis but then we purchased new premises in Paarderberg Road in Bodmin last year and have been doing a lot of work here to get us into a good base of operations.”

The charity is run by a board of trustees and operationally managed by a team of four, one of which is Zac. The team is called out by either the police or ambulance service to search for missing people or attend remote locations and rescue those in danger that might be injured.

Zac explained: “The way it works is that we get a text message from the control centre in Plymouth with a brief bit of information on the missing person, then we would call for further details. “We would then contact a lost person search manager and find out what work had been carried out already, including what action has been taken by the police. “Then we would send a message to the team asking them to stand by or calling them out to the rescue.”

The service is 100 per cent voluntary and in Bodmin there are around 35 members. This includes trainees – who are halfway through their training having started in October.

“Luckily we have a huge variety of team members, so some are available at some times and others might be available at the opposite times - so we pretty much always have cover for any and all eventualities,” Zac continued.

“Some are self-employed and some just have really understanding employers, which is good. “We have got three police officers on the team as well as plumbers, electricians, bank staff and we now have a doctor - we have pretty much any type of worker possible.

“We look for people with a wide variety of skills and wide ranging experience in fields outside of mountain rescue. But we can really rely on the team to get the job done.”

Perhaps surprisingly there is no real ‘hotspot’ for the team and their missions take them all over their east Cornwall patch.

However, if Zac had to pick one area that they tend to respond to more than others, he said it would be Minions out on the moors. He added: “We are not particularly busy at a particular part of the year either. You would think we would have more call-outs in the summer but actually people come to Cornwall for the beach, not to walk on the moors. It’s the locals that head out to the moors to avoid the beach.”

Typically, the type of jobs Zac and the team used to see a lot of was missing persons - and in particular people with mental health problems or dementia.

However, these are becoming less frequent. “Thankfully these are coming down now, possibly because there is more understanding of mental health issues so it’s spotted earlier. We now get more ambulance jobs than we used to, such as broken legs up on the moors.

“But on the whole, we don’t have one location we respond to over others or one type of job more than others - we do everything all over the patch.”

Zac himself has a background in farming and still keeps sheep now, as well as working for a local fencing company. He didn’t realise his passion for search and rescue until spontaneously taking a university course in rescue and emergency management nearly ten years ago.

From there he joined the East Cornwall team in 2014 and hasn’t looked back since, taking on the role of team leader based in Bodmin in November. “My subject tutor in university was chairman of the East Cornwall Search and Rescue Team, so he got me into it and I joined in 2014.

“It has been full of interesting jobs, meeting interesting people, it’s been full of highlights. It is a great team to be a part of.”

Like any charity, fundraising is of huge importance and for East Cornwall Search and Rescue that literally means keeping the gear running so they can save more lives in Bodmin and the surrounding areas.

If you are interested in making a donation you can do so by visiting www.eastcornwallsrt.org.uk

By Jacob Double 6th January 2021

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