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Search for missing senior a life-saving practice for Barrie Police

Training exercise simulates real scenario

A missing senior vanished at 6 a.m. and concern is mounting.

The 80-year old man has Alzheimers and diabetes, requires medication and has walked away from a senior's home near Little Lake.

The Barrie Police Emergency Support Unit is dispatched, flooding the area with specially trained officers in bright orange shirts.

While the search is real, the scenario is simulated. 

The police operation is a training exercise where officers will scour the waterfront and bush for a missing senior. 

"We're doing it here particularly because we have new seniors homes being built in this area of Little Lake and we anticipate in the future we're going to have to deal with these situations. We want to be properly prepared," said search manager Sgt. Glen Furlong.

Thirty officers participated in the two-day training session which started Tuesday in class with the Alzheimer's Society. 

A command post was set up Wednesday morning on Jamie Massie Roadway and Little Lake where officers gathered to be briefed. 

Clues were planted in the area - slippers and hats in the bush and a jacket floating in the water.

ESU officers were assigned to conduct ground searches, the unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) was deployed overhead and the Barrie Police boat Marine 2 was on the water on Little Lake to check the shoreline. 

All officers were equipped with a GPS to create precision maps of areas searched.

"If you're wearing this device it will show a coloured line everywhere you walked," said Furlong.

Officers in the command post can monitor the searchers in real time. 

Barrie Police Auxiliary Officer Peter Eddy was playing the part of the missing senior.

"Just trying to help out the troops," said Eddy.  "It's my first time doing an exercise like this. I get lost in the woods and become totally fatigued."

Highly trained Tactical Paramedics from County of Simcoe Paramedics Services were part of the search team and were to help the ESU members carry Eddy out of the bush to safety. 

"Time is of the essence in a situation like this to find the patient as soon possible and treat them accordingly," said Greg Vanrooyen, Platoon Supervisor for County of Simcoe Paramedic Services. 

A representative of the Georgian Bay Volunteer Search and Rescue, a civilian organization trained to OPP and Barrie Police standards, was also on hand. 

"We're here to observe how Barrie conduct themselves so we can help affiliate ourselves a little bit easier when it comes to understanding the rules and regulations of what they have in place today," said Daniel Kupraty, whose group could mobilize anywhere between 15 to 25 volunteers at a moment's notice. 

During the briefing, officers were told it was a "high search urgency" scenario.

They were given a photo of the "missing" man and a profile which included the fact the senior loves fishing and can become aggressive.

"We try and use real life situations so we're ready for it when it comes," Furlong said. 

Barrie Police conduct this training twice a year with different scenarios. 

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Sue Sgambati

About the Author: Sue Sgambati

Sue has had a 30-year career in journalism working for print, radio and TV. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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