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June 30, 2011
Maine Warden Service Provides Statewide Search and Rescue Services
AUGUSTA, Maine – The Maine Warden Service, the lead agency for search and rescues in Maine’s woods and inland waters, has been called out to 116 search and rescues since April 1, putting it on track to reaching its annual average of 480.
Yesterday, game wardens searched for a missing boater in Weston whose body was recovered in Deering Lake, 5 miles north of Danforth. Unfortunately, the boater was not wearing a pfd (personal flotation device) and drowned. The wearing of pfds is an issue wardens educate boaters about throughout the spring and summer.
Since April 1, the Maine Warden Service has received 38 calls for lost or distressed boaters, 14 calls for missing children, and 10 calls for lost or injured hikers.
Lt. Kevin Adam, Maine Warden Service search and rescue coordinator, stated when the weather is nice – usually spring and fall – the number of calls to search for people suffering from an illness increases. This spring, wardens searched for 8 people with Alzheimer’s, 7 people who were despondent, 6 people with Autism, and 8 people who were planning to commit suicide.
“Those categories typically will have more activity in the nice spring and fall weather and diminish in the heat of summer and cold of winter,” Lt. Adam said.
Maine has a new “Silver Alert” system, activated statewide when an elderly person suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or other illness and has access to a vehicle or public transportation is reported missing.
Silver Alert was used recently in two cases – the search for a missing 87-year-old Smithfield man who was found deceased approximately 24 hours after he was last seen by his family, and earlier this week when a 83-year-old Starks man who had been missing for almost a day was found alive.
A search-and-rescue effort typically begins when a dispatch center receives information that a person is lost or injured in the woods or waters of Maine. The Maine Warden Service then responds utilizing its trained staff, certified volunteers, K-9 units and equipment such as aircraft and ATVs, to find and bring loved ones home to their families.
Search and rescue costs to the Maine Warden Service and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife average approximately $300,000 annually, and have been as high as $400,000 depending on the number of cases and their complexity.
Two dependable resources when searching for missing people are aircraft and K-9 units, according to Lt. Adam. The Maine Warden Service currently has two trained pilots who have found people from the air, providing GPS coordinates to wardens on the ground. A few weeks ago, Chief Pilot Charlie Later found a Harmony woman suffering from Alzheimer’s after he was up in the air for about 10 minutes. The woman had been missing for at least a day in unfavorable weather conditions.
In another recent case, Pilot Dan Dufault spotted a man standing in water near a green boat early one morning. The man had been reported missing the night before by his girlfriend, who said the boat was red and white. Pilot Dufault surmised it was the missing individual and worked with other wardens to bring the man to safety.
“K-9s are one of the most efficient search resources we have,” Lt. Adam said. “During the summer, K-9s work best at night when temperatures are cooler, and when there is no other person in the woods except the lost person and other K-9 units. A search planner’s job is to get them in the right patch of woods so the k-9 team can do what it has been trained to do.”
The Maine Warden Service also works closely with the Maine Association of Search and Rescue, which is comprised of certified volunteers who specialize in different search-and-rescue techniques, such as grid search, technical rescue, equestrian and water.
“MASAR units are spread throughout the state and quickly respond to searches,” Lt. Adam said. “They take time off from work to search and to train, and they pay for gas, food and equipment from their own pockets.”
People who enjoy recreating in Maine’s outdoors should be prepared in case of an emergency, according to Lt. Adam. He suggests:
When using any outdoor recreational vehicle, do not drink alcohol. When boating, always wear your pfd and when on a snowmobile or ATV, always wear your helmet.
Carry a survival kit, with food, water, batteries, matches, a flashlight and other essentials. “You may end up using it so put good items in it,” he said.
Let someone know where you will be going and which route, including where you will park and when you expect to be back. “Stick to those areas and the times that you give,” he said.
Make sure your emergency plan includes more than dialing 911 on a cell phone. Many areas in Maine do not have cell coverage. Many hiking trails, ponds and lakes are remote so it may take several hours for assistance to get to you. “If you are lost or injured, do not call your family and friends first. Call 911. They are trained dispatchers and will take your information and assist in your recovery,” Lt. Adam said.
If someone is missing from your house, camp or on your trip, take 15-20 minutes to look for them. If you cannot find them, call 911. “The longer you wait before contacting trained search and rescue personnel to come look for your friend or loved one, the farther they will travel or clues could be destroyed will help in their recovery,” Lt. Adam said.
When hiking, make sure you have proper foot gear, and that you are physically capable and at a fitness level that is suitable for the section of a trail you plan on hiking. “Getting carried out on a back board is not fun for the rescuers or the injured,” Lt. Adam said. “Do not plan on a helicopter hoisting you off a trail. It only happens in rare instances in Maine.”
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