Riding to the rescue: Could bicycle unit help find missing people?

News-DemocratMay 9, 2014 

Ron and Liz Edwards last year launched a K-9 search and rescue group in Fairview Heights and now they want to expand their efforts by starting a bicycle unit.

The search and rescue group, called SAR K9 CO-OP Inc., was featured in an article in the News-Democrat in August 2013.

"We probably had six or seven members at the time the article ran," Ron Edwards said. "Within 60 days we had around 18. That helped right away with us finding a young autistic woman."

The group is dedicated to helping local agencies find missing people.

"We'll probably average one a month the rest of the year," he said.

But the group would like to increase its search reach with a new bicycle unit.

"I was in Las Vegas visiting my son," Edwards said. "I talked to a lot of search and rescue teams, including one that had a bike unit. I had never heard of it but it makes sense. Not everyone gets lost in the woods."

He said the group has eight dogs on its team in various stages of training, but handlers don't like to use dogs in heavy traffic.

"A bicycle can cover a lot of area in a short time," he said. "The speed makes it conducive for populated neighborhoods. A lot of people with memory loss just walk away.

"A rider can cover an entire subdivision in a short time or stop and talk to people when needed. In the right circumstances it make sense."

Edwards said riders would receive the exact same training as other team members. Members have a set list of requirements, including Federal Emergency Management Agency training and an FBI background check.

He said it is important for group members to have the correct training so that they don't make a dangerous situation worse by not knowing what to do or being correctly equipped for searches.

He said the group trains twice a week, at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Pleasant Ridge Park.

You can find out more about the group on its Facebook page or contact the Edwardses at 531-6785 or sark9coopinc@gmail.com.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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