A voluntary SAR team

WO IAN DANKS AND SEARCH DOG JUNO; A voluntary SAR team

Ian Danks is a serving Warrant Officer in Armament Engineering Flight at RAF Honington and has been a member of Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NorLSAR) since 2015. Lowland Rescue covers a third of the UK with 36 regional teams and over 1800 professionally qualified volunteers providing Search and Rescue coverage “From Hill to High Water”. NorLSARs’ 45 members help the police look for missing people 7 days a week, 365 days a year, come rain or shine.

Having decided to get Juno (as a family pet) and then train her as a SAR dog, they both passed the Lowland Rescue SAR dog and handler assessment in 2019 and have been called out regularly to search for missing, vulnerable members of the public throughout the region, helping to locate them and return them back to their families and loved ones.

Ian and Juno have been involved in a high number of live call outs within Norfolk and Suffolk, and the surrounding counties and Juno’s skills have helped in rescues ranging from teenagers to those in their late 80s. They have conducted searches within and on the outskirts of small villages and towns, marshland, woodland, open fields, coastline, riverbanks and industrial zones. Recent searches have included those with mental health issues, family break-ups, suicides and despondents. Sadly, on occasions not everyone can be reached in time, but the missing person is always shown the utmost respect and dignity, with NorLSAR working side by side the other emergency services to then return the missing person to their loved ones.

NorLSAR have established tactics to make best use of Juno and she is kitted out with a real-time GPS tracker that enables the Police and incident search managers to track her from the team’s incident control vehicle. This capability was used during a live search for a suicidal missing male when Juno searched a large open area, then fields, and finally a large wooded area where she was observed circling a location. Juno then returned to Ian and immediately sat at his feet, alerting Ian that she had made a find. A roll mat containing human scent had been detected by Juno and this important find helped locate the missing person safe and well and returned to his family.

Training has continued at an equally hectic pace for Ian and Juno, making sure that Ian’s SAR skills, and most importantly Juno’s nose is at the top of its game when called upon. Ian attends SAR basic training twice a month, leading teams conducting training exercises in and around East Anglia independent of Juno. Juno’s training is twice a week, ranging from basic searches where 1 person maybe hiding 100m away in woodland, to multiple people in a wooded area of up to 50 acres.

Although qualified as an ‘Air Scent’ SAR dog, Ian is now training Juno to be a water search dog. With the only currently (voluntary) qualified water search dog in the UK about to retire, Ian hopes that he and Juno can be an asset that can deploy nationally at the request of regional police organisations in searching for lost and missing people, around any form of water source or feature.

Such training is incredibly rewarding, but the entire commitment to NorLSAR and supporting the local community in this fashion takes its toll. However, supporting members of the local community as the only qualified SAR dog handler in the region produces such a strong, tangible feeling that suddenly makes it all worthwhile.

Ian and Juno have, and continue to give talks and presentations to local and reginal clubs and groups. If you would like to know more about Ian and Juno, NorLSAR, and how they operate, please email them on:
secretary@norlsar.org.uk.