It’s all about helping people.
The members of the Second Alarmer’s Search and Rescue Team are all volunteers and are also members of Second Alarmer's Rescue Squad (SARS). The primary function of SARS, whose main station is on Davisville Road in the Willow Grove section of Upper Moreland, is to provide Emergency Medical Services to Upper Moreland, Abington, Hatboro, Jenkintown, Whitpain and the surrounding communities. SARS also has multiple sub units like the Search and Rescue Team including a K9 Search Team. The Search and Rescue Team is made up of 10 members and five in- service search dogs and two puppies in training which will very soon be in-service.
“We are certified by the Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council,” said Colton Marsh, a volunteer EMT-B Corpsman (a SARS title for being qualified to be 1 of the 2 people that are needed on an ambulance) and also a member of the K9 Search and Rescue Team.
“We say that the Search and Rescue Team is on call 24/7, and technically we are. We carry our pagers on us all the time and could be dispatched at any time. However, we are all volunteers and we do lead other lives,” Marsh said. He said volunteers are parents and grand-parents, others work full- time day jobs and night jobs. “That being said, we are dispatched with the understanding that we will respond as we are available,” he said.
One recent rescue has a happy ending. Last month, on July 19, the Second Alarmer's Search and Rescue Team was dispatched by the Lower Providence Police Department in response to a missing person from his residence. The missing individual was an elderly male who is known to be a mental health patient and lives alone in an apartment but has an aide check in on him regularly. Marsh said the missing subject is known to take regular walks in his neighborhood but is not gone for long. This time he was known to be carrying his wallet and would have the ability to travel a good distance. The missing subject's aide went to go check in on him and when she couldn't find him, she contacted the police. After a thorough search of the apartment and immediate area by police, said Marsh, Lower Providence Police requested the Second Alarmer's K9 Search Team by name and the squad was dispatched through the Montgomery County Dispatch Center.
“This dispatch sends search information to each team member's pager with a location and directions. Four of our members were able to respond immediately with two K9's: Anita Crielly and her bloodhound Bonnie, Diane Keenan and her bloodhound Ranger, Janet Doan, and myself,” recalled Marsh.
Marsh said the elderly man was eventually found. This particular search took the team in and around apartment buildings, roadways, parking lots, and in and around commercial buildings, as well as wooded/forested areas in the vicinity of the missing subject’s apartment.
“Our two K9's, Bonnie and Ranger, were scented on an article of the missing subject’s clothing and both dogs searched the surrounding area showing clear, positive signs that the missing subject’s scent was in the areas searched,” he said.
Marsh said both dogs showed definitive signs that the subject traveled towards a SEPTA bus stop leading the handlers to believe the subject boarded a bus.
“After searching for about an hour and a half, Ranger had lead his handler back to the area of the bus stop when the subject was seen exiting a SEPTA bus. Ranger went to the subject and alerted his handler that this individual contained the same scent as the scent article and this alert was considered a positive find,” he said. Bonnie, the second dog, was also brought to the subject for a secondary positive identification, and she also alerted this individual contained the same scent as the scent article. Marsh explained that the man matched the description of the missing subject and he was considered found and returned to his residence at approximately 2 ½ hours later.
Marsh, who lives in Abington, is a full-time nursing student and is also an aquatics supervisor for a pool during the summer.
“I also am a volunteer EMT with SARS and work regularly with many other volunteers and career staff there,” Marsh added. “I enjoy being a part of the Search and Rescue team because it gives me an opportunity to work with an excellent group of people to provide a pretty amazing service to our community. I love to be involved in many things especially when they help other people.”
SARS is a non-profit organization. Marsh said it receives money thought grants and billing for patient services. Further, he said the Search and Rescue Team is available to everyone at no cost and each member owns and cares for their own dogs. Donations are always welcome and much appreciated. More information about SARS can be found through www.sars.org.
The group also welcomes volunteers. Those interested in finding out more can email email@example.com and the appropriate person will respond. “Extra support personnel are always needed to work radios and carry additional items including water,” Marsh added. “There's a role for everyone and everyone has a role. We're very interested in hearing from you.”