Ground searches

You may have reason to prioritise a foot search for your missing loved one.

Police/emergency services

Police will usually only conduct a search if they believe your loved one’s disappearance is suspicious, and the State Emergency Service (SES) can only conduct searches for missing persons with approval from police. You may need to consider conducting your own search. Appeal to able-bodied and trusted friends, family and community members (e.g. Lions, Rotary, bushwalking clubs etc). As every case is different, use your discretion to judge what is and isn’t appropriate.

If your loved one went missing in NSW, see if the search dogs at Search Dogs Sydney can help. In WA, contact K9 Trackers.

Organising a search

Here are some steps you will need to take to organise a search:

  • Ask permission from the land owner before you search on anyone’s property.
  • Call the local law enforcement and make sure there is not an active search being conducted there at the moment.
  • Record the names and contact details of all volunteers prior to them embarking on the search. Children 18 and under should not participate, remembering you may find the missing person, no matter his or her condition.
  • Make small teams of 8-12 people per area and make sure they know not to touch anything that could be evidence, instead taking a photo of anything they think may be of significance.
  • Make a plan based on how many volunteers you have.

Small groups

  • Get a map of the area and separate it into grids.
  • Appoint one person as the “Map Holder” and have them assign people to different areas of the grid.
  • Break into smaller groups of 4 or 5 people if possible and spread those groups in several places of the area.
  • Go slowly and look at your surroundings.
  • Walk along the area side by side, arm-length apart try and maintain the same pace as your team.
  • If you come across something suspicious tag an area near it with a piece of bright colored tape and call the police.
  • Take a picture of any and all things you find and give them to the police.
  • Do not forget about trees, cliffs, ditches, etc.
  • Be mentally prepared and alert at all times.
  • if you are searching outside in “wilderness area” beware of the wild plants and animals.
  • Make sure you hand out flyers and give information to any of the people you come across.
  • Also be on the lookout video cameras, you can later ask the owner to view them or ask the police to analyze the footage.

Larger groups

  • Again grid the map and appoint one person to control the searches via the map. Separate into groups of 10 people.
  • Again line up along the grid area and walk at arms-length, slowly, side by side.
  • Follow the same system as the small groups.

Items to bring for searches on foot

Here’s a list of items the group may want to take:

  • Walking sticks
  • Maps
  • First Aid Kit
  • Boots (recommended but any shoe that covers the entire foot is fine)
  • Long pants and long sleeve shirts
  • Something to cover the neck and chest
  • Some form of protective eyewear
  • Reflective clothing
  • Torches/flashlights
  • Brightly coloured tape
  • Mobile phone (do not touch anything, if you find something immediately call the police and follow their instructions)
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Whistles
  • Water and food/snacks
  • Flyers/posters of the missing person
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Printed: 17/06/2024
Url: https://www.missingpersonsguide.com/ground-searches/
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