Our challenging role is to be made easier with new VHF digital radios thanks to a donation by the Thatchers Foundation.

We work closely with Avon & Somerset Police to typically search for and rescue missing individuals in difficult ground, including cliffs and water, covering around 1800 sq miles throughout Somerset, Bristol and Bath. The 50 volunteers that make Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue, are on call 24/7. A registered charity, we receive no funding from any public body and rely entirely on public subscription.

Chris Thring, chair of Avon & Somerset Search & Rescue comments, “Our volunteers provide a vital service in searching and rescuing from difficult ground. We rely on financial support to keep us going, we are therefore very grateful to The Thatchers Foundation for their donation which will be put to valuable use through contributing to the purchase of new digital VHF radios.

“Radio communication between the search and rescue teams, and between the search control vehicle and individual teams is essential for the effectiveness of the work we undertake. The radios we currently use, analogue VHF, are increasingly unreliable and their effectiveness is poor. The new digital VHF radios will have many advantages and will allow our teams to function effectively to serve the population.”

Mike Williamson, Trustee of The Thatchers Foundation, adds, “With the Mendips on our doorstep we are very aware of the commitment and dedication of the volunteers at the Avon & Somerset Search & Rescue. They deserve to have the most effective equipment to assist them in their challenging work, we are therefore very pleased to make this donation of £5,000 which will bring them towards their target for the purchase of their new radio communications.”

The Thatchers Foundation has been set up by the Thatcher family to help and support community and charitable activities, in particular in the parishes of Sandford, Winscombe and adjoining villages. Contributions to individuals or organisations may be through financial grants, or through the donation of time and physical help. For more information about the Thatchers Foundation, visit
ASSAR and Thatchers Foundation

Posted on 23 / 02 / 2017

New State of the Art Vehicle to Help Search for Missing People

A brand new vehicle that will Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue becomes operational on 1st November. The new Incident Control vehicle is fitted with state of the art technology to help find missing people.

Adrian Payne, ASSAR Vehicle Officer said, ‘This new Incident Control vehicle takes us to the cutting edge of being able to help people far from help. We have to be able to plan and coordinate search and rescue operations from a wide variety of locations. Typically we get called out to remote places in the middle of the night and have to be able to operate with no or limited support. It’s been a huge fundraising effort from everyone and lots of time fitting the kit from fellow team members but we know this will help us become even more effective.’

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue (ASSAR) are the police’s chosen search and rescue resource in Avon and Somerset. Staffed by volunteers they are on call 24/7 365 days a year, whatever the weather or time of day. They get called out around 35 times a year to find missing high-risk and vulnerable people. They have been involved with high profile cases such as Charlotte Bevan and Joanna Yeates in Avon Gorge along with many incidents in Cheddar Gorge and across the area.

The vehicle is a long wheel base VW Crafter. It has been fitted with the latest technology by specialists within ASSAR. To help plan searches and coordinate rescues the operational control area has;

  • A server, Local Area Network and wi-fi connectivity
  • Two docking stations and 24” monitors for Toughbook laptops loaded with computer mapping and software for administering a search
  • Three of the latest digital radios and a wide range of charging points
  • Planning area for collaboration with other emergency services
  • Welfare facilities to cater for ASSARs search specialists
  • A second bulkhead fitted to contain a caged unit for ASSARs search kit and stretchers

The trustees of ASSAR would like to thanks all the team members who helped fundraise for the vehicle over the last few years and the community of Avon & Somerset who have been so generous. We would also like to thank Pearce Bros and Eurosigns for their kind support.

ASSAR Incident Control VehicleASSAR Incident Control Vehicle monitorsASSAR Incident Control Vehicle interior

Posted on 01 / 11 / 2015

ASSAR Welcomes Five New Team Members

After two years of showing the commitment and competencies required five trainees became full team members.

Ben, Jenny, Yaron, Dave and Ian had to spend at least 6 months learning the core competencies required of every team member. After this initial period they were invited to selected callouts to see them put all the training into practice.

In front of all the potential new team members at this years selection weekend the five were presented with their hi-vis jackets that show they are truly part of a unique team. The rest of the team welcome them on board and wish good luck to this years trainees.

The five new team members joining ASSAR.

The five new team members joining ASSAR.

Posted on 27 / 10 / 2015

Accountants Learn to Search and Rescue

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue (ASSAR) revealed some of the techniques they use to a local accountants firm on 24 June. Staff from Old Mill Accountants spent the day with the team and were led through training in the morning and then expected to put it all into practice in a large search and rescue exercise in the afternoon.

Using land and facilities generously provided by Mendip Snowsport in Churchill, Old Mill’s staff were taught navigation and search skills alongside putting specialist stretchers together and handling them safely.

During the exercise the accountants were tasked with finding and rescuing one of their colleagues from a tricky situation in woodlands. To add pressure ASSAR added another casualty into the scenario! We’re pleased to announce that both the casualties were moved to a safe location, our congratulations to all the staff at Old Mill.

Andrew Moore, partner at Old Mill, commentated afterwards that it was a “superb day” and that the event had had a “universally positive response” from the staff attending.

Old Mill made a generous donation to the Team of £1250 on the day. A Team spokesman stated that “the rescue team relies completely on donations and this sum will go some way towards upgrading the Team’s vehicles and communications equipment”.

ASSAR is an emergency service staffed by volunteers on call 24/7 365 working on behalf of Avon and Somerset Police. If your company would like to spend a day with the team please contact

Posted on 06 / 07 / 2015

Bristol Water Support ASSAR with Donation of Toughbooks

Members of ASSAR were delighted to accept the gift of seven Toughbooks from Bristol Water during the computer mapping training they went through recently. The Toughbook laptops will enable ASSAR to use the latest in computer mapping software to help during searches.

Panasonic Toughbooks are rugged laptops designed to withstand drops, spills, dust and grime and to perform in the harshest environments. ASSAR is on call 24/7 365 days a year in any weather, being asked to by the police to assist in difficult, hard to reach areas and so will the Toughbooks.

Eight members of ASSAR underwent two days of training in the latest software known as MX SARMAN from Mapyx. The software has been specifically designed to assist in the planning of searches through maps and the allocation of resources while producing vital time and date stamped records. The latest system allows multiple users to work on the same incident, ideal for some of the large and complex searches ASSAR is called to. Mapyx provides this system free of charge to mountain rescue teams in the UK.

An ASSAR spokesperson said,’These laptops and the mapping software are an important step forward for ASSAR. The accumulated experience of the team members in planning and managing searches can now work in parallel with some very sophisticated technology. The team is very grateful to Bristol Water for this very generous donation. Mapyx continue to be a great supporter of search and rescue across the country and long may that continue.’

Bristol Water Mapyx

ASSAR members training with the latest mapping software from Mapyx

ASSAR members training with the latest mapping software from Mapyx

ASSAR members training with the latest mapping software from Mapyx

ASSAR members training with the latest mapping software from Mapyx

Posted on 09 / 03 / 2015

Training in the latest Computer Mapping Software for Searches

Members of ASSAR are being trained in the latest version of a computer programme that helps plan and coordinate searches.

SARMAN is a GIS Software programme specifically developed for the use in the search and rescue management of missing persons. Originally it was designed in conjunction with Mountain Rescue England and Wales and subsequently used on numerous searches since. It is in use with MREW Teams, ALSAR Teams, MOD SARF, Police Forces and Fire & Rescue Services.

Bristol Water are helping ASSAR with a project to make it easier for the team to use SARMAN and are hosting the training, our thanks to them for their ongoing support.ASSAR SARMAN computer search

Posted on 05 / 03 / 2015

ASSAR Condolences to Family of Missing Mother and Baby Found in Avon Gorge

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue (ASSAR) would like to pass on their condolences to the family and friends of Charlotte Bevan and her daughter Zaani Tiana Bevan Malbrouck during this very difficult time.

Avon and Somerset Police requested the support of ASSAR on the evening of Wednesday 3rd December for a technical search of the cliff face in Avon Gorge. Team members, along with the police rope access team, worked until 3am on Thursday and then returned at 10am to resume the search. The team found the baby child on Thursday afternoon.

Duncan Massey, chair of Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue said; “We are very proud to have been able to use our specialist skills to assist the police with being able to draw this incident to a close. This was a particularly difficult and harrowing search due to the nature of the incident. All of the team members involved are being supported by the wider team.”

Posted on 05 / 12 / 2014

Grant for ASSAR after Somerset floods

On the night of February 6th 2014 ASSAR was called to the village of Moorland on the Somerset Levels. The team was called as there was a threat to life from the rising flood water. ASSAR personnel worked alongside the other emergency services to move local people, their pets and farm animals to safe areas. You can read the full callout details here.

ASSARs new drysuit and buoyancy aid required after the Somerset flooding in February 2014.

ASSARs new drysuit and buoyancy aid required after the Somerset flooding in February 2014.

One consequence of this evening was the pollutants in the flood water effecting the seals on the teams dry suits. Thanks to a grant from the Bellwin scheme that provided emergency financial assistance during and after the flooding in Somerset ASSAR has now taken delivery of new dry suits and buoyancy aids.

ASSAR is being called to an increasing number of water related incidents over the last few years. The amount of training in this area has had to increase in parallel. ASSAR now has a dozen Swiftwater Rescue & Flood Technicians and a qualified instructor in the team.

Following on from the widespread floods the Somerset Emergency Voluntary Agencies Group won the Voluntary Sector Award 2014 at the Emergency Planning Society Awards Ceremony. ASSAR is pleased to have played a timely role in the overall voluntary effort and congratulates the other agencies.

Posted on 04 / 10 / 2014

Police Cadets Practice Search and Rescue

Police cadets from North Somerset have spent two evening training sessions in preparation for a large search and rescue exercise with ASSAR. The exercise took place on Sunday 6th July at Sandford Quarry.ASSAR_Police_cadets_North_Somerset_carrying a stretcher

Their learning was put to the test with an exercise involving finding clues, working out the direction of travel of a missing person, searching difficult ground, locating the casualty and moving them to a safe location. The cadets were expected to show their search skills, effective communication between each other and ‘control’, leadership and planning.

The cadets did extremely well finding the casualty quickly using their skills and swiftly moving him to a place of safety. ASSAR members were so impressed they invited the cadets to join the rest of the team who were carrying out an exercise in the same location. The cadets then got to work alongside full team members.

Our thanks to the cadets and PC Ray Bradley for their enthusiasm. Thanks also to Mendip Snowsport Centre for allowing use of their land for the exercise.

Posted on 09 / 07 / 2014

HSBC Discover Search and Rescue

Members of ASSAR were delighted to introduce HSBC staff to the world of search and rescue on Saturday 28th June. The staff from the Wells and Shepton Mallet branches had raised an amazing £900 for ASSAR. The staff learnt how searching is different from looking, how to load and move a  casualty in a vacuum mattress. Despite a brief storm nothing stopped them from getting stuck in. Thanks again to HSBC and the staff members involved.

Adam Brooke from HSBC hands over a fundraising cheque for £900 to ASSAR

Adam Brooke from HSBC hands over a fundraising cheque for £900 to ASSAR

HSBC staff learn how to load and move a stretcher with members of ASSAR.

HSBC staff learn how to load and move a stretcher with members of ASSAR.

Posted on 30 / 06 / 2014