Incident Management Team
The Maine Warden Service has statutory authority in Title 12 10105 Whenever the commissioner receives notification that any person has gone into the woodlands or onto the inland waters of the State on a hunting, fishing or other trip and has become lost, stranded or drowned, the commissioner shall exercise the authority to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe and timely recovery of that person.
The Maine Warden Service Incident Management Team was created back in the 1980's to manage large scale and high priority searches that occur in the state of Maine. The IMT practices the ICS/NIMS principals when running search incidents.
The Maine Warden Service received almost 500 calls for service last year related to search and rescue. Typical search calls game wardens respond to include lost children in rural areas, overdue hikers, missing Alzheimer persons, overdue snowmobilers, and missing despondent individuals. The IMT is deployed for about 10 -15 searches a year based on the priority of the search or when it gets to large for local wardens to manage effectively.
The IMT regularly provides assistance to other law enforcement agencies in the state. IMT has worked with the Maine State Police to provide assistance in missing person cases detectives from which the CID unit are involved. We also provide assistance for people that are missing where a search of the area could assist in the investigation into the whereabouts of that person.
The Incident Management Team members attend nationally recognized training programs designed specifically towards search and rescue tactics. Over the last 15 years, the IMT has evolved from using 24k topo maps, with compass and pacing techniques to now combining GIS based mapping software with field resource deployment using GPS technology. This combination allows more concise placement of resources that are deployed in the search area and better documentation of where those resources actually searched while doing search assignments.
A recent search coordinated by the IMT:
The Maine Warden Service was notified on Saturday evening (9-27) around 9:30 pm that a 80 year old woman was missing from her residence on Route 175 in the Brooklyn Maine. The Hancock County sheriffs department sent several officers to the scene and the Brooklyn Fire Department responded along with a K-9 from the Ellsworth Police Department. Information gathered from relatives and people in the area determined that Suzanne was last seen at about 9:30 in the morning on Saturday as she walked across a field onto a footpath that would eventually connect to town. Suzanne was interested in getting a package from the post office in Brooklyn which is about 1.5 miles from her residence.
The Incident Management Team responded along with game wardens from all across Hancock County, Maine Search and Rescue Dogs (MESARD), and Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue (MDISAR) The weather at that time was very hard rain and worse weather was predicted throughout the night. The storm dropped 7" of rain that night in the Brooklyn area. K-9 and hasty search teams were deployed all night and searchers came back literally drenched from the heavy downpour of rain that occurred in the region from 10:00 pm on. We were all very concerned about Suzanne's health in this extreme weather.
Starting at 6:00 am on Sunday morning, K-9 resources from MESARD, and the Maine Warden Service K-9 Team were deployed along likely areas of interest. Wardens Mark Merrifield and his K-9 Aspen and Warden Brian Tripp and his K-9 Marley were given a assignment along a woods ATV trail that runs west from route 175 and was south from Suzanne's residence. The IMT members realized that Suzanne would have needed to cross this trail to get to town. They theorized that if she made a wrong turn, she would have become lost very quickly due to the number of side trails. Warden Merrifield's assignment was to search the main trail and follow the side trails. At around 7:25 am k-9 Aspen started alerting to human scent and then led Warden Merrifield to Suzanne who was sitting in an old clear cut. Suzanne was very wet and hypothermic. She was conscious and alert though. She was immediately brought out to a waiting ambulance. Suzanne was located about ¾ of mile from her residence.