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By Cynthia Haggitt
Search and rescue teams have been around since the dawn of human existence. There comes a time when you find yourself in a real emergency and need more help because the situation needs certified professionals to help in a state of disaster.
Calhoun County Emergency Search and Rescue (CCESR) serves to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters in Calhoun County. The organization works with all of the emergency response agencies, community groups and public health organizations. CCESR has the capablities to help for both before and after a disaster strikes whether it is in Calhoun County or somewhere else.
“We’ve been doing this for about two and a half years. First, we wanted to make sure that it was okay with all the board members. We wanted to try and do this without having to cost Calhoun taxpayers any money,” David Pohlman said. “The state trains us for free. All of our search and rescue is done through Federal Emergancy Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines, so that it’s the same not only statewide but throughout the whole country. If we join another search team down in Louisiana, we’re all trained the same.”
Pohlman said there is a difference between search and rescuers and fire department search and rescue.
“The difference is that we are state certified and when the state gets a call for a missing person, they will put out a call for us. They see Calhoun County has a certified team and we’re state certified through FEMA, “Pohlman said. “So far, we’ve done this without costing the taxpayer any money, which was our goal. Our problem now is we just need money for small equipment.”
Pohlman said the Brussels and Bactchtown Women’s Club helped out by donating some money when they purchased a new ambulance.
“When we got the boat, I paid for myself. So hopefully if Search and Rescue ever gets any help financially, they can help pay me back for the boat someday,” Pohlman said. “But right now, it’s all volunteer work and we’ve had to pay for all of our own equipment. The Brussels Health Fair has been a help though because Modern Woodman is matching the funds that we get today.”
Although it has taken CCSER almost three years to get up and running, Pohlman asked another county such as Pike County’s SER team on how long it took them to get estabilished. He said his response was about the same as Calhoun County’s ESER. He asked how long did it take for their certification?
“I asked, how long did it take you? And they said, three years after hearing about their experience, I knew then we’re kind of on the right track,” Pohlman said. “ The state was going to send us instructors here if we had more than 15 people and they did that for our first class. If our next class is in Peoria for example, we just all have to get into a vehicle and drive there to take a 16 hour course, which means we have hotel bills, fuel bills. We have to pay for all that ourselves out of pocket right now.”
Pohlman said because this is a volunteer organization he has found it is hard to get people to join up because not only do you have to take on all the fees, the command courses, and then you have to learn about starting a search. From past experiences he said he heard people say it was a lot of work. He said he has to go back to all the people that I had on my list and ask if they are willing to commit to the organization and be willing to go somewhere for the required training.
“I have to ask them if they are willing to go to Wilmington? Are you willing to go to or are you willing to go to Chicago and get this training. We have to recertify every three years and every three years, we have to go for a 16 hours course to be recertified. It’s important to find the right person for search and rescue,” Pohlman said.
Pohlman wants people to realize that not everybody has to go walking through the woods.
“There’s logistics strategies that people can do, there is also training to learn how to use drone pilots for rescuing. Believe it or not there’s lots more to search and rescue other than walking through the Woods and actually looking for people.”
Pohlman explained that if anybody was interested in joining CCSER all they have to do is call him.
“Right now, we have three people that are state certified, so we’re hoping to have more people join and get involoved.” he said.
Recently CCER has been out on calls during an emergency situation.
“We’ve gone up to Winchester. We’ve had one here last month, and, yes, we have even gotten calls when there has been a need for state disasters,” Pohlman said. “ So if Louisiana and Texas get hit by a hurricane and they declare a disaster, they ask for other States, then the state of Illinois will call us, they may say, hey, do you want to go down to Louisiana for two weeks?”
Pohlman said the calls come to and it’s all because of our state certification. He said one or two of us could go down there, and we can get right in with another search team, and we’re all trained to do the same.
“So it’s a lot of work, but it’s satisfying and helpful. We save lives.” Pohlman said.
If a person is interested in CCSER they can contact David Pohlman at 1-618-971-6259 or email him at email@example.com.