ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - For nearly three hours on Saturday, members of the Anchorage Search Team combed areas of the city using tracking systems and K-9 units. Their goal was to find a missing person; however, in this case, someone had volunteered to go missing.
The search team was staging multiple realistic scenarios to sharpen the skills of some of the newer members.
Lee Rambur has been with the search team for a decade. He told Channel 2 that carrying out these drills is the best way to get experience before new members find themselves assisting in what could easily become a life-or-death situation.
"We go along with them, coaching them on things we've seen in the past. It depends on whatever the case may be," said Rambur. "A lot of people have come and gone through the system, but some have been here longer than me ... as long as 18 years, I believe."
Anchorage Search Team primarily operates within the city, but they've occasionally been called on searches that lead them into the Mat-Su Borough or nearby mountain ranges. This weekend's exercises primarily focused on locating someone who had wandered off in an urban setting.
The first stage of the search involved using tracking systems that ping on the location of transmitter bands that are often given to individuals affected by Alzheimer's, autism or other medical conditions.
According to Rambur, the team can usually locate one of the transmitters within about 30 minutes of receiving a call.
The second stage of the search was a full-scale ground operation, involving K-9 units. This portion of the drill was meant to simulate what would happen if searchers discovered that someone had slipped their transmitter band, and left the area from where it was pinging.
"This is similar to what has happened to us in the past. It's very close to a real-world search," said Shanon Kimble, a member of both Anchorage Search and Rescue and North Paw K-9 Search and Recovery.
North Paw K-9 Search and Recovery also uses these practice searches to get valuable field experience for their K-9s, and the operations resulted in successful searches for multiple dogs.
The Anchorage Search Team is made up of about 20 members, all working on a volunteer basis. The group works entirely off of donations.
You can learn more about the Anchorage Search Team by visiting their Facebook page.
You can also check out North Paw K-9 on Facebook.