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Volunteers wanted for the Ground Search and Rescue Team at McLean County EMA

McLean County Emergency Management Agency
The McLean County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is looking for volunteers to join the Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) Team.

The McLean County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is looking for volunteers to join the Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) Team.

Cathy Beck, director of the McLean County EMA, said the agency has been working closely with its partners in police and fire departments. In addition to emergency responses, the GSAR Team coordinates with these departments to cover large-scale community events.

“Lately, we've been having more callouts, more requests for services,” said Beck. “Trying to get more people will make searches go faster as well as increase the pool that would be available for a search.”

Beck said at community events, the GSAR Team is there in case people need help locating someone that is injured or ill, whereas emergency response situations can often be late at night and conducting a search which could last several hours. Sometimes, the GSAR Team is also needed for search assistance in a nearby county.

“Anytime we are requested, whether it be in McLean County, or as mutual aid for another county … we could be on a person search or an evidence search,” said Beck. “We can also assist another search team with search management for them and help to plan the most likely places to look first.”

In order to be eligible to volunteer on the GSAR Team, applicants must be 18 years or older, have a valid driver's license, fill out a volunteer application, pass a background check, sign the McLean County EMA oath, become certified in Illinois Search and Rescue Council (ISARC) training programs, and participate in ongoing GSAR training.

“We onboard them, teach them EMA protocols and policies, and then they're trained as searchers,” said Beck. “It first starts with a basic navigation course and then a two-day ground search and rescue training.”

Early in September, ISARC is offering the training programs that are required for GSAR Team volunteers. The Basic Land Navigation training course is Sept. 10 and then the Ground Search and Rescue training is the following weekend on Sept. 17 and 18.

For more information on the Ground Search and Rescue Team as well as volunteer applications, visit mcleancountyema.org.

Zach is a reporting intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.