When his mobile phone rings, search specialist Joel Baumberger gets ready to carry out a search for a missing person. The 30-year-old works 60 percent as a helicopter mechanic at the Rega Centre at Zurich Airport and 40 percent as a search specialist at the Rega base in Wilderswil, where the Rega competence centre for the search for missing persons is located. Joel Baumberger is part of the three-member search and rescue team. This means that the same highly-trained specialists are always deployed to search for people in an emergency.
A search and rescue operation is performed when a person is, for example, reported missing by relatives and there are signs to suggest that they are in distress – for instance, if they fail to return from a hike at the agreed time. For a search mission – which is always performed on behalf of the local authorities – Rega has different specialised resources at its disposal: the Rega 11 search helicopter and the Rega drone.
Joel Baumberger is trained for the use of both of these. Usually he lives in Zurich. One week per month, he is on standby duty for the search and rescue team in Wilderswil; then he stays in a room in a shared apartment in the Bernese Oberland, so that he can be at the helicopter base within a few minutes of the alarm being raised. “I’m called out by the flight coordinators at the Helicopter Operations Centre, who provide me with the initial information. I compile this information, consult with the police and narrow down the search area,” explains Joel Baumberger, who hails from the Bernese Oberland. “Then we discuss all the available information in detail with the helicopter crew,the Operations Centre and the police and decide on the search method. If the weather permits a flight, we primarily use the search helicopter,” he says.
“I’m always pleased when we find a person alive and doing well under the circumstances," says Joel Baumberger. “But unfortunately that’s not always the case. Then it’s particularly important for me to know that we’ve done everything we possibly can. Talking to the crew also helps to process a mission. And even if not every search has a happy ending: it’s great that I can help to save people’s lives”.