SEVENTEEN police officers underwent a large-scale search and rescue exercise on Dartmoor to successfully become ‘lost person’ search managers (LPSM).

Lost person search managers are essential in the running and organisation of searches where a person is reported as lost or a high-risk missing person to the police.

They are trained in locating a missing person as quickly and safely as possible and have experience in supporting with searches that involve tough terrains, such as cliffs, and bad weather conditions.

As part of the exercise, which took place near Venford, officers had to navigate through different real-life scenarios, deploying and managing resources for the search.

The scenarios included a person who was lost on the moors after going to a rave and taking drugs.

A second scenario was to locate a person who had fallen off a rock edge and needed a rope rescue. Another was to locate a wild swimmer who had failed to return home.

Police officers trained in lost person searches on the moors
(Devon and Cornwall Police)

Several agencies came together for the training, including Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton.

Police Search Advisor, Richard Loxton, who supports with the running of the course, said: ‘Whilst we are lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful scenery with plenty of scenic walking routes in Devon and Cornwall, this does mean that every year, people are reported as lost.

‘People become lost for a number of reasons, including errors in navigation, disorientation, and through worsened weather conditions. It’s vital for us to find people quickly to keep them safe, particularly during inclement weather conditions when lives can be at risk.’

Up to three people are reported as a high-risk missing person every day to Devon & Cornwall Police.

A high-risk missing person is where the risk of serious harm to the individual is likely - this can include a missing person who is suicidal, a young child, or an individual who has dementia.

‘That is why it is so important that we train our police constables and sergeants to be able to handle searches safely and effectively in a number of circumstances, terrains and locations’ Richard said.

‘Lost person search managers play such a significant role in achieving positive outcomes in searches for lost and high-risk missing people’ he added.

‘I’d also like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in running the search and rescue exercise – without the support of our partner agencies we would not be able to pull this off’ Richard said.

‘Over 140 searchers from various organisations provided feet on the ground during the exercise, and the Rapid Relief Team, a charity who provide support to people in emergencies, provided warm food and drinks for everyone involved on the day’ he added.

‘You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing - it is not wasting police time to report someone missing’ a spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said.

‘We are here to protect you and your loved ones - if the missing person is in immediate danger, is a young child or vulnerable to harm, call 999 now’ the spokesperson added.