Nearly 200 search and rescue volunteers descended on Ashdown Forest on Sunday (February 1) in a major exercise designed to test the skills and capabilities of a number of organisations.
Organised and hosted by Sussex Police at its Kingstanding training facility, the scenario presented to the teams involved a hunt for four people - in reality, enthusiastic police cadets - lost in the forest.
In addition to search specialists from Sussex Police, there were volunteers from Sussex Search and Rescue, Surrey Search and Rescue, ALSAR Search Dogs Sussex, Sussex 4x4 Response and three Sussex Neighbourhood Watch teams. They were assisted from the air by three fixed wing aircrafts and a helicopter from the voluntary Air Search organisation, along with operators of the Sussex Police drone.
Sergeant Russ Phillips, who organised the exercise, said, “Conditions weren’t as bad as they are experiencing further north, but the chilly weather was a valuable reminder of just how wild and hostile some of the remoter areas of Sussex can be.
“Our scenario involved four high risk missing people and provided opportunities not only for searching techniques, but also for first aid, recovery and medivac (medical evacuation).
“While the exercise did unfortunately necessitate the recovery of a ‘body’, I am pleased to say that all four of our cadets were successfully found, returned safely and were very grateful for warm drinks and a meal.”