The Missing Americans Project

Looking for People and Answers

A logistical plan for successful search campaigns: Assembling your Team

There is no way to effectively manage these searches on your own. A team approach will be more efficient and will help to keep you healthy. As mentioned in the first posting. No person expects these situations to last beyond the first couple of days. This makes it difficult for people to plan ahead since they must simultaneously accept that this may be an extended situation. All I can say is hope for the best but plan for the worst.

No two cases are the same but each will have similar challenges and probably a unique factor or need that becomes the primary challenge or hurtle standing in the way of making progress. Examples may be locating proper search aircraft, boats, K9-SAR teams or finding people on the ground to assist with a foot search. This is when the manpower and good organization pay off. In the case of our search for Joe, we needed to notify people in remote sometimes desolate areas. Based on the wind and ocean current projections, it was possible for Joe to have come ashore in three different countries covering over 300 miles of coastline. We broke this area out geographically into five sectors and assigned a sector leader to each area. The responsibility of the sector leader is to aggregate all information that relates to this geographic area. As new contacts were made they were forwarded to the appropriate sector leader. At times one sector would be extremely active while others would be quiet. The various sector leaders can also recruit people to work under them. In the case of Joe, these leaders were managing communications with 50-100 people each. This included dive resorts, dive boats, fishing boats, ferry companies, ham radio operators, local news papers, humanitarian groups, hospitals, morgues and the list goes on. The chain of communication should be such that only the managers are reporting back to those at the top, this helps to eliminate the frantic and reactive nature of these searches. In return you have more time to plan, think and work on the most important issues.

In building a team there are various roles that should be considered. It will be important to have at least one person who is proficient in social networking and using sites like face book and twitter. A person with media contacts either professional or amateur. Someone familiar with how to “blog.” Another that can focus on fund raising. Someone politically inspired to work on the various political problems that arise with these searches. Finally, evaluate your situation and those potential pitfalls. If you are not computer savvy and do not have the ability to effectively communicate via e-mail, recruit a relative that can help you. These days e-mail is the most efficient way to work on these cases and having someone that can show you how to set up e-mail folders and keep your information organized will save you time.

If you are operating out of a central location such as your home, I recommend transforming it into a “war room.” Large white marker boards will help keep you organized and follow the big picture. Large map’s up on a wall of the area and push pins to indicate important areas. Satellite images of the area from Google earth. Ample supplies of bottled water and snacks for those late nights and for people who stop by to offer support and help. Communications/Operations center with the various computers, phone’s printers, chargers for cell phones all organized in one area. Not only does all of this help you to remain organized and efficient, it is good if people stop by to conduct news interviews or make donations.
In my next post I will be talking about ways to raise money through private donations and how to leverage relationships and resources that you may not realize that you have.

Jeffrey S. Brehm
Mobile 908,868.7862

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Comment by Jeff Dunsavage on October 21, 2009 at 10:04am
Jeff - Nice job. As we get more of these practical posts up on the site, we'll be able to pull them together into briefs and checklists that people can print out and have at their fingertips when they find themselves in these situations. Thanks for doing this.

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