Search and Rescue Conference held

Published 12:44 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Virginia Search and Rescue Council (VASARCo) held its annual Search and Rescue Conference and training April 13-17 at Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center in Appomattox.

Over 150 members arrived from all over Virginia and as far away as New York. One participant was from Australia.    

“Virginia is one of only four states that have a statewide Search and Rescue System,” vice president of the VASARCo Bryan Saunders said. “Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) develops and maintains emergency plans and provides state, federal and local governments and agencies assistance when needed.”

The VASARCo, a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization, is an advisory board composed of the teams that provide state resources for search, rescue and recovery operations. They offer trained professionals in search and rescue in rural, wilderness and farmland environments and in natural or man-made disaster situations. 

“We have 23 search and rescue teams in Virginia, comprised of two equine, eight K9 and 14 ground teams,” Saunders said. “The teams met here this weekend to further train and network with one another. They will be able to share experiences to improve on current techniques and talk about new technology and methodologies. Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center is the perfect facility for our annual conference and training as it is centrally located and offers classroom as well as field training capabilities. You can’t get that in Richmond or Roanoke.”

Courses held at Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center included initial response actions, crime scene preservation, and wilderness first aid with break out classes in clandestine grave remains, snakes of Virginia, SAR mission planning and what to do if you’re first on scene. 

“We have great folks here,” Bryan said, “But there aren’t many young folks. The average age of our members is 30 to 50; we have only one teen member with us this weekend. We like to see more young volunteers become involved in programs like EMS and fire or search and rescue that are so very important to our communities.”

Those interested in volunteering for a search and rescue group in Virginia can visit the VASARCo website at and click on the members section to find a group close to them.

Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center offers lodging and food service for conference and retreat bookings year round. For more information call (434) 248-5444.