When is a successful search not a successful search?

A successful search?

I had a good find last week! I absolutely hate the idea of going into details of searches online so I won't but as the Search Manager said following the search; "a life was saved tonight!"  So surely it was a successful search? Right?

Unfortunately the manner in which I found her has lead to rather a lot of "taking the mick" out of me and might have, had I not very robustly defended myself, lead to a ill-advised change of search tactics and planning across the board.

Let me explain. The search was for a despondent female. The search plan devised by the search management team perfect; good thorough search of the "hub", lines and points between this and the rim to be searched with a known "reflector" being thoroughly searched too. Misper specific intelligence fully taken into account; as I said a perfect search plan.

Then some idiot (bored at hanging around Control when they have everything fully under control and, I'll say it again, a perfect search plan in place) suggests he should go out in a car for a drive around. The search manager agrees reluctantly.

Reluctant for good reason. Everyone knows a good search relies upon two main elements – putting the searchers in the right place (think POA!) and ensuring they search appropriately when they are there (think POD, but not maximising POD!). A successful search balances these two perfectly (think maximising POS!)

So, in this instance, misper specific intelligence meant that the likelihood of the misper being on the road was very low (low POA!) Searching from a car is an inherent bad practice; you cannot see or find anything as well as if you are on foot (so think low POD!)

The plan of this bored individual then was to search an area where the misper was very unlikely to be using a search technique that is very unlikely to find the misper even if she was in that area.

Unfortunately in this instance I found the misper...

Now, what we should all take from this is that I was very, very lucky that evening. Someone was either looking down on me, or taking care of our misper.

What we should not take from this episode is that searching from cars is great!

The problem is that the human mind remembers these incidents and makes them easy to recall. This then leads to issues which we all know about "we've always found mispers like this..." and "its always worked in the past..."

The way I've tried to explain it to others is this; if I go into a casino, put £50 on number 31 and it comes up; does this make it a good strategy to use everytime?

Obviously not, I hope. We all understand that this is one of 37 numbers that could have come up and using this strategy we'd lose 36 times out of 37.
Unfortunately we don't see it this way when we are dealing with missing person search.

If you want to look at it another way; dog walkers are always finding mispers. Maybe if a misper goes missing we should just take our dog for a walk somewhere, anywhere...

Dog walkers find because there are so many of them – literally tens of thousands of them every day. The actual chances of a dog walker finding a misper are extremely low. You can walk your dog every day for the rest of your life and not find someone. It is just the high numbers that mean they tend to find lots of mispers.

The same is true of search tactics; do them often enough and you will have a success or two.

What it doesn't show then is that they are the best search techniques or tactics! The best search techniques or tactics maximise the chances of finding mispers, every time, over and over again.

So going back to the original question; although this was a successful search and a life was saved it was also evidence that sometimes everyone gets lucky. This doesn't mean we should change the way we do things because of one or two pieces of anecdotal evidence!