Missing person? Now what? Follow our steps
Sarea: initiated by the police, together with civilians.

Step 3: Set up a search team

No matter whether a person has been reported missing to the police, setting up a search team requires some coordination: there will be many simultaneous processes, and these must be recorded accurately to ensure a clear and complete overview of all that was done during the search actions. So the first step is to appoint a coordinator. The topics listed below may help the coordinator create structure and maintain a clear overview of the actions.

Set up a search team

1. Assemble a search team

Don’t engage people you don’t trust or can’t rely on. In this way you will set up a reliable group of people sharing the same motivation.

During the search situations may arise that are not suitable for children.

Having a large number of people is not always a good idea. “The bigger, the better” doesn’t always apply when searching for a missing person. 

A public appeal on social or other media will move the search out of your control and may generate media or other attention on a scale that you may not yet want. Therefore, ask people in person or in private groups to come and help. 

Coordinate the search action from this fixed place if possible.

2. Communicate clearly

You can keep the details of the people helping using the form below. 

This may prove useful when distributing roles and tasks, so that people’s qualities can be put to good use. For example, if a person can’t walk long distances but does possess strong communicative skills, then it would be wise to appoint them as a point of contact rather than getting them to physically take part in the search.

Agree on the channel that will be used to communicate with one another. WhatsApp may be a useful tool for this. It is also a good idea to appoint one or more points of contact.

Occasionally a missing persons case may receive media attention, sometimes on a large scale. If this is the case, appoint a special point of contact for the media. Refer all the media to this designated point of contact. Click here for tips about dealing with the media, including social media.

3.Allocate roles and responsibilities

There are several roles and responsibilities to be assigned in the search for a missing person. People may be asked to physically search in certain areas. But other specific tasks may also have to be performed, such as distributing flyers. Step 4 describes how these specific actions can be taken in a careful way, but first allocate roles.

It is important to appoint someone to steer the search team and coordinate the search action. The coordinator does not take part in the physical search but keeps an overview throughout the search process. The coordinator knows who is doing what, collects information, and communicates relevant information to the search team.

It is important in this context to put the qualities of all people helping to good use. If a person does not walk too well, for instance, they should not be asked to search an area but to ask around in the neighbourhood instead.

It is advisable not to search an area alone and to perform other tasks together with somebody else. People in a group can support each other and carry out actions together. Click on the button below to download a form that helps keep an overview of the groups.

The number of helpers may increase over time, particularly if the person remains missing for an extended period. In that case it may be advisable to appoint one or more sub-coordinators who can support the coordinator or assume a specific responsibility, such as assigning search areas.

In this way, the police will be kept informed of your plans and actions. Moreover, the police may start conducting investigations. It is extremely important to coordinate your activities with those of the police. Click here for more information on how the police work when a person goes missing.

4. Keep information up to date

For your own search action as well as for the police it is important to keep information properly up to date. Appoint one or more people to collect and structure all the information: the coordinator or a sub-coordinator, for example.

Keep a log of the activities that are being carried out or have been carried out, including the resulting findings. You can use the form below for this.

Record any tips that come in: when the tip came in, who gave it, who received it, and how it was followed up. You can use the form below for this.

From now on, keep in a list at who you spoke to, when you spoke to this person, and in brief what this person told you. If a person has an actual tip, please include it in the tips form.

Use a map to keep track of the areas that have been searched. You can mark these on a printed map with a felt-tip pen. You can also place icons on the map to mark the places where flyers/posters have been left and camera footage has been collected.

Urgent advice

A missing person may be injured or confused when they are found. And though it is thankfully very rare, a missing person may not be found alive.

We advise you not to respond to any tips you may receive from ‘diviners’, ‘mediums’ or ‘psychics’. This type of information has rarely, if ever, resulted in the missing person being found.

The missing person may try to get in touch, or people helping with the search may send or need important information.

This is to prevent misunderstandings that may occur in online communications. Of course, you can use online media, such as WhatsApp, during actions. After an action, however, you should meet again in person to discuss it and decide on the next action. 

Such organizations may offer unsolicited help. Their modus operandi and intentions vary per organization. If you are approached by an organization, consider carefully whether there is a need for that kind of help at that point and whether the organization is suitable. For example, beware of financial surprises. You can always check with the police whether they know the organization. 

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