“The vision for K-Stat is simply to be able to give police or a search manager this app, and they can look at the information and see this type of person has been found here, here and here” – Stewart Baird
“Suicides like to go somewhere nice, somewhere that’s special to them” says Stewart Baird, search manager at Kent Search and Rescue.
“Or a viewing point, somewhere that’s renowned for being nice.”
Every second counts in the race to find a vulnerable person, yet too often search planning relies purely on the knowledge of those involved.
And in a county as big as Kent, where do you start looking? The last place they were seen? A favourite haunt maybe?
This is the stark choice facing members of Kent Search and Rescue (KSAR) and police, and it’s a choice that can mean the difference between life and death.
Fortunately, KSAR’s experienced search teams rely on more than guesswork.
Through observing and recording the behaviour of missing people, rescuers have noticed patterns in how they act, and where they are found.
“The police typically pursue people, that’s what they’ll do, so they’ll start from where the person was last seen and work from there” says Stewart.
“But autistic children are drawn towards water. So if there’s a pond over there, that’s one of the first places we’ll go to look.
“And if it’s a dementia patient, who tend typically to be older, they tend to head downhill.
“So we’ll say ‘don’t start from the top of the hill, start from the bottom and work your way back, and you’ve got a far better chance of intercepting them’.”
Soon this lifesaving knowledge could be at the fingertips of every police officer and search team member in the UK thanks to an app called K-Stat.
“They can check the app, see the missing person is an autistic child, for example, and quickly get to the nearest pond,” said Stewart.
“The average 999 response officer will not have that info but the vision for K-Stat is simply to be able to give police or a search manager this app, and they can look at the information and see this type of person has been found here, here and here.”
Lowland search and rescue teams from across the UK are recording details of each missing person and sending them to KSAR, and as more data is added, the accuracy improves.
Stewart said: “We were the busiest of every county in the UK so it makes sense for us to start because we’ve got the scale and the volume
“The bigger the numbers, the more accurate it gets. It’s better than being totally random.”
Although it will take time to build up enough data to make the app truly functional, a huge exercise is currently underway to add statistics from the police’s Compac system, which will provide a big boost in accuracy.
The system currently exists only as a desktop version, so the next step will be develop an app that could be downloaded to provide on-the-spot information.