We Are Randox | BBC NI’s The Search features Randox colleague Dale McGall

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We Are Randox | BBC NI’s The Search features Randox colleague Dale McGall

On Tuesday 23rd January 2019, a new three-part documentary series, The Search, aired on BBC Northern Ireland, featuring Randox’s very own Dale McGall.

By day, Dale is a Regulatory Compliance Officer at Randox making sure that all our products are of the highest quality and comply with all quality regulations before they are shipped all over the world to our customers.

Outside of work, however, Dale takes on a very different role when he volunteers as a Search and Rescue Technician (SarTECH) with the Community Rescue Service organisation in Northern Ireland (part of Lowland Rescue). Community Rescue Service is a team of approximately 130 people with units spread across the country on a 100% voluntary basis.

We caught up with Dale to hear all about his work as a SARTech volunteer;

Congratulations to CRS on the documentary, Dale! Can you tell us a little more about the work of Community Rescue Service and the role you play as a volunteer?

The Association of Lowland Search and Rescue (ALSAR) is an umbrella organisation that enables Search and Rescue teams throughout the UK. It coordinates provision of Lowland SAR services, sets national standards for the teams and develops and shapes Lowland SAR policies.

In Northern Ireland, the team is known as the Community Rescue Service with units and personnel from all parts of the country. Presently there are units in Strabane, Coleraine, Portglenone, Broughshane, Antrim, Belfast, and South Down, amongst others.

Training is a key part of being in CRS. Before being allowed out on a Search, personnel are required to conduct training on map reading, radio communication, first aid, search techniques and water awareness. Over time, people can take part in additional training; from being part of a boat crew and use of kayaks, to water rescue and advanced first aid.

Within CRS, I am a Search and Rescue Technician (SARTech) and have completed several first aid courses.

How long have you been involved with Community Rescue Service?

I have been with CRS since 2017 when I was looking for volunteering opportunities outside of work. I saw some social media posts about the work of the Community Rescue Service and decided to get in touch.

The rest, as they say, is history!

I train weekly with the Antrim, Portglenone and Broughshane units. This training involves reinforcing existing knowledge, familiarisation training, and inviting third party organisations to give us specialist advice.

Can you describe a typical day/operation in the life of a CRS volunteer?

It may sound cliché but no two days are the same with the CRS! As well as the operational role of Search and Rescue, I have also found myself supervising street collections, marshalling for cycling clubs, and giving talks to other organisations.

What would a typical rescue involve?

Our rescues most often involve vulnerable high-risk members of society. Typically, this could be children, elderly people living with dementia, or those with mental health issues.

A call can go out at any time of the day or night and to any part of the country. I’ve been involved in searches that have lasted weeks and have had massive resources invested in them. Just as often though, I’ve had call-outs for which I’ve arrived at the meeting point and then been given the order to stand down as the missing person has been found. In either situation, our focus is locating the missing person as soon as possible and returning them to a place of safety.

It can a very busy lifestyle volunteering with CRS. While I can’t leave during working hours, as soon as I clock out from Randox I am ‘on duty’ with CRS because a call can come in at any time. Being flexible with your evenings, weekends and annual leave is a must as time is of the essence when a person goes missing.

On one occasion, I was involved in an overnight search in County Down, returning home around 09:00. A quick shower, change of clothes and I was back out to another rescue based in North Antrim. Is this compulsory? No, but as an operational SARTech, you are part of a team and there is a strong teamwork ethos where we support and help each other.

Is there anything you would like to share that you think isn’t commonly known about the CRS?

Something I wasn’t overly aware of before joining CRS is how dementia can affect people. People with dementia can regress to a period of their lives many decades ago. One search involved an elderly gentleman with dementia who had gone missing. Approximately thirty SARTechs were deployed across a wide area with a helicopter flying overhead. About an hour later, the call came to stand down as the gentleman had been found. What I found amazing about this particular search was the gentleman, who was not steady on his feet and used a zimmer frame to walk, was found roughly five miles away from his house!

As volunteers, none of us get paid but knowing you helped return a missing person to their loved ones is beyond any form of financial reward.

How does being a SarTECH volunteer compare with working in your day job at Randox?

The two roles are very different but there are a number of transferrable skills which have proved useful! The main one is attention to detail. In my role at Randox as a Regulatory Compliance Officer, I am often auditing performance and processes across the company. Not only do I review new and existing compliance legislation but I am also involved in assisting with the implementation of corrective and preventive actions.

My role as a SarTECH calls for a similar level of attention to detail. You never know where someone could be, or where there may be unknown danger for the missing person or the Search and Rescue team, so it’s important to always be on-your-guard and alert to even the smallest noise or change in environment when out on a rescue mission.

What do you hope The Search will achieve on BBC NI?

I’m hoping the series being aired will raise awareness of some of the challenges that we as a country face. The Search will help to showcase our people, capabilities and our professionalism. The Community Rescue Service is a vital service in Northern Ireland, but is 100% run by volunteers on whom the organisation very much relies.

If anyone would like to find out more information about the work I do with the Community Rescue Service, please visit https://www.communityrescue.org

You can watch The Search on BBC iPlayer here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0byhv18/the-search-series-1-episode-1

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For further information please contact Randox PR by emailing randoxpr@randox.com