The CPR Analogy

As we begin the process of reaching out to Law Enforcement to partner as part of our Search Ready Communities program we have come across some push back. Agencies are rightly concerned about using untrained or skilled volunteers directly from spontaneous community members. Many of their concerns are justified and part of using a service such as Destiny Search Project is to mitigate these concerns when communities do come out to help.  Before we address several of those issues directly we would like to share this analogy as it gives a clear sense of how we feel.

The CPR Analogy
I want to begin by saying that yes this is a simplistic analogy and there are more complexities but the message is clear and on point. Community-Based Volunteers do have a place in missing person searches. Now just imagine that someone in your own community drops unconscious and is not breathing. Everyone knows to call 9-1-1 to get help, but what happens on that call. Let’s just say that the caller who is there on the scene is a regular citizen with no medical or emergency background.

The 9-1-1 operator takes the call and begins walking this untrained person through the steps to access the patient’s condition. It is determined quickly that CPR will be needed. At this point does the call taker ask about qualifications? Licence? Training? No, none of the above. Life is literally on the line. The operator gives directions to the caller to assist them in every way possible to do the best they can. Sure the caller may possibly break a rib, cause some other injury, but they could SAVE A LIFE.

No, the 9-1-1 operator is not going to walk the person through a tracheotomy or surgery but they will give directions to do a specific task that can be easily explained and quickly implemented. Not in all cases will the results be good, lives will still sadly be lost but imagine the world where 9-1-1 was not allowed to help John Q Public give very basic life-saving CPR. Just like the person calling 9-1-1 when someone collapses in front of them there are thousands of community members that are willing to come out and assist in a missing person search. These citizens likely have never had any search experience, training, or certifications. Unfortunately, this is a deal breaker in some jurisdictions.

We wholeheartedly disagree and believe this would be just like the 9-1-1 call taker telling someone they couldn’t do CPR because they were not certified. With proper direction and organization, community-based volunteers can be used in missing person cases. We are not talking about true SAR type of responses that do require the skill of a trained, licensed person such as a more complex medical procedure may need a  surgeon. We are looking at the door-to-door canvassing, checking along roadsides and public areas, doing things in an appropriate way that could potentially save a life by getting as many feet and eyes in the search as quick as possible.

Yes, our above analogy is blunt. When a person is missing though every second counts in possibly saving a life.  So now we would like to address a few of the comments we have come across in the past ten years. We want to also be clear our goal is to work together to find the best possible solution in each case. 

A common response is that of community-based volunteers not being trained or certified as SAR. As in the analogy we understand that and SAR has a very special and unique role using their expertise in specific situations. We never intend to use volunteers in rugged terrain, bad weather, or searches that could put thier lives at risk. Actually using a service such as ours will reduce the possibility of people going out completely on their own with no direction or briefing. Every one of our searches has a briefing that outlines important factors not just on safety but in what to do if something is found, where not to go when searching and other items that we have added through work with Law Enforcement, FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the past. 

Another item that has been brought to our attention in the past was the need for background checks. There are legitimate reasons this is needed but in many cases, it can delay things. We do however require identification of all volunteers and record it into our database and verify it. That information is available in real-time to Law Enforcement to do any checks as needed, Without a service in place such as ours, this would never be tracked. 

Lastly, a few items that benefit Law Enforcement by using a coordinated system for community-based volunteers. Members of the community can be a force multiplier, by teaming up with an officer or SAR member we can make one person become a team of many. Having an organization take on responsibility for volunteer management frees up resources from agencies to work on critical activities. At times we have, and can direct volunteers to specific areas that could be away from the area agencies are focusing on. We also want to point out that we can assist in many forms of missing persons, not just the high profile events. We have worked on cases of Autistic young adults, children that wandered off, Elderly with dementia. 

The final thought for you to consider is not as much about the Law Enforcement aspect. it is about the family missing their loved one. We can provide not just support based on experience and also trained social work staff but we rally a community behind them in their darkest time of need, Bringing in dozens, or hundreds of community members to show support is something that can help families feel that they are not facing this alone. 

We hope that this will give you a moment of pause to think about using community-based volunteers in the future if needed. Though we believe we offer a comprehensive package of services free of charge to families and communities we want to point out something. This is not about Destiny Search Project, it is about that person who is missing and their loved ones. No matter what plan you end up implementing please put one together, Use your own system, SAR, another organization, it doesn’t matter who just that you are ready when someone goes missing in your community. 

If you have further questions or would like to work on a plan for your agency or community please feel free to contact us. 

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