New Zealand Land Search & Rescue


Nominee/entrant details

New Zealand Land Search & Rescue


Organisation details

Size: 1,000-4,999 staff

Industry: Other Services


Organisation background

LandSAR is a national volunteer organisation that provides land search and rescue services to lost, missing, and injured people all over New Zealand. Our volunteers operate in suburban, urban, wilderness and rural areas including regional and forest parks, shorelines and caves. Our unpaid professionals offer their specialist search and rescue skills free to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the New Zealand Police and the Rescue Coordination Centre. We have over 3,400 trained search and rescue volunteers who are members of 60 local groups covering the length and breadth of New Zealand.


Executive summary

New Zealand Land Search & Rescue (LandSAR) are a national volunteer organisation that provides land search and rescue services to lost, missing, and injured all over New Zealand. LandSAR encompasses a complex risk profile from its wide variety of operational environments. The LandSAR volunteers are often the first to the scene of traumatic accidents, suicides, and other fatalities. To minimise the psychological wellbeing risk to our volunteers LandSAR has put together the Member Wellbeing Programme which focuses on providing education about good mental health and supporting volunteers with the appropriate and effective pastoral care following exposure following traumatic events.


Background on situation and opportunity

The LandSAR volunteers are often the first to the scene of traumatic accidents, suicides, and other fatalities. Therefore, the psychological wellbeing of LandSAR volunteers has been identified as a critical risk. To minimise this risk, the volunteers need to be prepared to deal with potentially traumatic SAR response tasks and have the right professional support available after these events. Previously the only option the volunteers had for funded psychological support was through New Zealand Police channels if they involved in what the police identified as a traumatic stress event. The volunteer had to be able to self-recognise any distress and seek this support themselves. While this provided the volunteers with a basic option of support, LandSAR recognises only using the police channels was not enough and there is a higher level of duty of care needed for the psychological wellbeing of our volunteers.


Strategy

This is still a programme that is still very much in a development stage and only kicked off in September 2020 upon the appointment of the Health Safety & Wellbeing (HSW) Advisor role and the funding initiative provided by New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR). The HSW Advisor put together the business plan for the programme and submitted it to NZSAR who will monitor the progress of the funding initiative. The business plan for the psychological wellbeing of the volunteer members initially focuses on prevention by providing mental health wellbeing education and for interference by providing appropriate pastoral care following traumatic critical incidents. The name of the programme to the Volunteers is known as the Member Wellbeing Programme. For the programme to be successful and gain buy-in from the volunteers the HSW Advisor has created a Member Wellbeing Working Group made up of volunteer members with an interest or background in wellbeing/welfare. This working group will provide the memberships perspective on what will be ‘fit for purpose’ and how it will best integrate into LandSAR operational activities. This group will meet for the first time in September for a Workshop to gather the building blocks of the programme and create a bigger picture work plan. In the meantime, the organisation has ensured that the education programme kicked off in 2020 and LandSAR Training Inc provides a one-day psychological first-aid workshop for volunteer members, known as Member Wellbeing Workshop. The member wellbeing training focuses on mental health awareness including resilience, self-care, coping skills, recognising warning signs, and the importance of seeking help early. LandSAR has also secured a third-party assistance ‘EAP’ provider who can provide pastoral care via self-referral or group referral as well as any required post-critical event assistance.


Execution

As mentioned above in strategy the Member Wellbeing Working Group will be a large part of the execution and the development of the further programme to allow for volunteer input and buy in. The group will start off with a Workshop that will be facilitated and run by a psychologist who specialises in the first responder field. The aim of the workshop is to provide the building blocks of the programme and provide a bigger picture workplan to start to integrate the programme into daily operations of LandSAR groups. As the programme gains awareness and traction across the organisation and groups, the aspiration is to review if LandSAR can develop a Peer Support Programme like those seen in other SAR agencies mental health and wellbeing frameworks. The HSW Advisor will facilitate a Peer Support Workshop at LandSARs bi-annual Conference. This workshop will work with LandSAR members to understand what Peer Support is and if there is the ability for this to be implemented and to what scale. Following the first year of Member Wellbeing workshop training courses and as the programme develops the HSW Advisor will work with GM Training to review the training needs within the programme and to understand if other modules are needed. All events that meet the Critical Event criteria will have Welfare checks conducted for the members involved (directly & indirectly). These welfare checks will be carried out by LandSARs third-party support provider. Additionally, these critical events may require a post operation debrief session that would be facilitated by a mental health professional. These sessions will be facilitated by LandSARs third-party provider and if not available then LandSAR will seek other health professionals to deliver the service based on the area the event occurred.


Engagement and communication

Member Wellbeing Working Group is made up of LandSAR volunteers to ensure their engagement in the programme. LandSAR has involved the membership throughout the process of this journey sharing regular updates in the Friday newsletter out to the volunteers and provided presentations and updates at the annual Group representative 1-day workshops in both the North & South Island. LandSARs Group Support Officer (GSOs) who support the 60 volunteer groups broken down into regions, these GSOs have also been information sharing champions of the programme promoting the info of what is available at group and committee meetings they attend. The programme has been well received and the Member Wellbeing Working group is made up of approximately 20 volunteers from both the North & South Island groups.


Impact

The impact from this programme not at a stage that it can be measured. It wouldn't be expected to see this type of review until the end of the year. We have successfully delivered 8 Member Wellbeing Workshops to approximately 120 Volunteers and more courses are continually being booked up around the country. The feedback we have received to date from the volunteer membership has all been very positive and well received. Some statements have even been it's about time. They feel it's been a great initiative from LandSAR and NZSAR to support the psychological wellbeing of the volunteers giving their dedication to saving the lost, missing and injured.


Inclusion

As mentioned above about the inclusion of Volunteer members into the development of the full programme. Member Wellbeing Working Group is made up of LandSAR volunteers to ensure their engagement in the programme. LandSAR has involved the membership throughout the process of this journey sharing regular updates in the Friday newsletter out to the volunteers and provided presentations and updates at the annual Group representative 1-day workshops in both the North & South Island. LandSARs Group Support Officer (GSOs) who support the 60 volunteer groups broken down into regions, these GSOs have also been information sharing champions of the programme promoting the info of what is available at group and committee meetings they attend. The programme has been well received and the Member Wellbeing Working group is made up of approximately 20 volunteers from both the North & South Island groups.


Innovation and creativity

Seeing as the programme is still in its very early stages the innovation and creativity has yet to shine through. It is expected this will come from the Member Wellbeing Working Group workshop in September when the volunteers really have the chance to fully engage and come forward with ideas on how to improve and integrate member wellbeing into being a LandSAR volunteer. From the time they join as a member and the education that is provided, to the care and processes that are followed through an operational call out to when someone needs support. Watch this space more to come from our amazing volunteers.


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Referee details

Jon McQueen, Development & Fundraising Manager (New Zealand Land Search & Rescue)

022 064 9233 • [email protected]


Key contact

Jodi Starr, Health, Safety & Wellbeing Advisor (New Zealand Land Search & Rescue)

0211715796 • [email protected]

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