Multiple Agencies Provide Successful Search and Rescue in Lucas
On May 11, at 7:50 p.m., Lucas Fire Rescue (LFR) was notified of a missing 82-year-old female. LFR Assistant Chief Lance Gant was Incident Command during this search and rescue operation. Chief Gant was told that the person was last seen at 5:52 p.m. The initial missing person report was handled by Collin County Sheriff’s Office. The missing person lives on W. Forest Grove Rd.
Chief Gant describes weather concerns, “Lucas Fire-Rescue arrived on scene while the sun was up. During our operations, the sun had set and it was a cooler evening for May in Texas.” They were concerned that the missing person could experience hypothermia.
Chief Gant provided details of the search and rescue, “A missing person is initially handled by law enforcement. Collin County Sheriff’s Office was initially handling the call. LFR was contacted via 911 dispatch to assist in the search. On the way to the scene, I contacted Terry Benjamin with Lone Star Search and Rescue for their assistance with their K-9 operations. Once on scene, I assumed LFR Command and began running operations on scene. LFR also initially dispatched a squad for search and rescue and an ambulance for EMS. LFR contacted the Collin County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Deputy on scene for additional details on the missing person. LFR continued ground search operations. LFR contacted Wylie Fire-Rescue for the assistance of their unmanned aircraft system (UAS) (aka drone) with Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) camera. LFR opened our Emergency Operations Center to help with request of additional resources. LFR requested personnel to come in off-duty, our LFR Rehab Group, as well as Fairview Fire Department (FFD) for additional resources for ground search operations. CCSO contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety Aircraft Operations Division to request their helicopter for additional assistance as well. Using the FLIR technology and K-9 units, we were able to locate the missing person. She was assessed by LFR paramedics, immobilized, and carried to an LFR ambulance for further assessment and transport to a local hospital as precaution.”
At 9:32 p.m., the missing person was found approximately 200 feet south of the property in a heavily wooded area down a creek embankment. She did not sustain any injuries.
Protocol is in place when Lucas FR receives a missing person report. Chief Gant said, “Our first step is to get the resources we need to help in a missing persons operation. Getting resources activated early in a missing person is paramount to finding them. We then want to get as much information as we can on the missing person, last date and time seen, last known location, article of clothing for the K-9’s when they make it on scene. As you can see, it takes the work of several agencies to help make these operations go as smooth and as quick as possible. Time is our biggest enemy.” There have been two missing person incidents in Lucas this year.
Regarding why the DPS helicopter was utilized during this search, Chief Gant said, “As darkness set in, CCSO requested the helicopter from TxDPS to assist in the search with FLIR capabilities.” While the helicopter covered the search area, it broadcast announcements that a search was underway for a missing person and a description of the person was given over the loud-speaker.
Chief Gant explains how residents can help in searches, “Spontaneous volunteer groups can be both a blessing and hindrance when searching for a missing person. A blessing in that they can search their own properties to include barns, sheds, low lying areas, creeks, or any structure or vehicle on their property. As well as provide more helping hands in the search to cover a larger area at a time. In the same giving manner, they can become a hindrance as the K-9 units depend on the scent of the missing person to search them out. As the area becomes flooded with volunteers, that scent becomes weaker and more spread out making it difficult for the dogs. As well as with FLIR technology, we don’t know if a subject walking around at night in the dark is the missing person or a volunteer searching an area. It makes it very difficult for the UAS operator to differentiate between the two and all heat signatures need to be investigated taking up valuable time and resources. Until a spontaneous volunteer group is able to integrate itself into the overall span and control of an operation, they can best help out by searching their own properties and spreading the word to their neighbors to do the same. If they do find the missing person, please call 911 immediately.” He adds that residents can look at the video from their security cameras and Ring doorbells to see if the missing person came across their property. If they can provide information on the time the person was there as well as the direction the person was heading, it would help a lot in the search.
If residents would like to do more, they can apply to become a member of Rehab. “Rehab is a volunteer group that supports Lucas Fire-Rescue during emergencies and training. It is composed of dedicated members who respond day or night with equipment and supplies to provide rehabilitation services to our first responders.” (https://www.lucastexas.us/lucas-fire-rescue-rehab/)
Chief Gant summarized, “Like most calls in the fire service there is a heightened sense of stress. A missing person raises that stress level very high as you are fighting against time, weather conditions, and known conditions of the missing person. The greatest relief is hearing over the radio that the person has been located and there are no immediate threats to their life.”