The holiday season is the perfect time to acknowledge local not-for-profit organizations and volunteers who give back to their community all year long. This December, we’re highlighting Tobias Ireland, the public information officer for the London Search and Rescue (LSAR) team!

Founded in 2002, the London Search and Rescue team is comprised of highly-skilled volunteers who conduct ground searches to help locate lost or missing persons within a 150 km radius of London, Ontario. LSAR assists the London, Strathroy-Caradoc, Aylmer, and St. Thomas police services, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police. Members of LSAR are trained in First Aid, basic and advanced search and rescue, rope rescue, tracking, and a variety of other skills used to effectively help first responders.

Recently nominated as one of five organizations to win the $10,000 Ironstone Impact Donation, the LSAR team could really use our help to gain some votes this year! As a not-for profit, LSAR relies entirely on donations, grants, and fundraisers for financial support so that they can continue to purchase the equipment necessary for their volunteers. If you’re feeling particularly festive and generous, please consider voting for London Search and Rescue! The poll closes on December 21 at 5:00 pm. (Psst—it’s free to vote!)

How does your organization help the community?

Our volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help in the search and rescue of lost or injured persons across Middlesex County. Throughout the year, London Search and Rescue also provides a safety program to local primary schools and youth groups, such as Brownies and Scout troops. Our program consists of a video on survival (Hug-A-Tree by the RCMP) if you find yourself lost in the wilderness, along with a presentation by our members on the prevention of getting lost and how to make it easier for searchers to find you. Our members participate in this program strictly on a volunteer basis. We feel that this program is critical to the well-being of the children in our community, as well as their families.

What are your current responsibilities within your role?

I act as the media liaison by providing information to the public during operations. I am the voice of LSAR for advertising and social media coordination (media, newspaper or magazine articles, handouts). I am also the ground search and rescue team leader.

Can you highlight some other volunteer positions within the organization?

Team commander (chairs meetings, signing authority on behalf of LSAR, etc.)
Safety officer (health and safety advisor during training, exercises, and searches)
Searcher (First Aid and CPR certified)
Call out coordinator (liaison between police services and volunteers)

Why did you choose this volunteer organization?

I wanted to make a difference in my community. My cousin, who is a search and rescue technician for the air force, told me that this a great organization that allows you to help people and give back to the community.

What obstacles or challenges have you faced in your role?

Every call is different, so no two calls are the same. Every call brings its own challenges, from weather to terrain to time of day and time of year. Everything has to be considered while on search and rescue calls.

What is the most rewarding aspect of volunteering with this organization?

The most rewarding aspect of volunteering with ground search and rescue is being able to help those in need. I get to help find loved ones and return them to safety.

Do you have any advice for people looking to volunteer?

Be open-minded and never stop learning. If you’re looking to be part of a team, then consider joining a ground search and rescue team. You can learn important life skills, like teamwork, and give back to your community.

What are you looking forward to with the organization this year?

I’m excited to continue supporting our community partners in search and rescue operations in London and the surrounding area. I’m also looking forward to getting new members trained.