Searchers swarmed the area in Danville around Nancy Hart's 1950s rancher home one evening this May in an effort to find her autistic son. Of course, this wasn't a real scenario and her son wasn't really missing. But it could have been real, because Nancy has a son with autism (now high-functioning) and who had, in the past, gone missing.
This time, however, it was a mock search Hasty Squad training and Nancy was in the thick of it.
Autism has been front and center in Nancy's life and it is one of the reasons she joined CoCoSAR in 2005, since she knew autistic children frequently go missing. Also, Hurricane Katrina had just happened and she wanted to be part of a team that could help in a disaster. Those reasons, along with her enjoyment of camping and rock climbing, contributed to her decision to join the team.
Right away she jumped into a high level of involvement, going from EMR to becoming an EMT, writing up the SAR Academy manual and then becoming the academy sergeant for two years. A few years ago, Nancy had to leave the team for medical reasons, but now she's back and raring to go. “I'm really happy to be back,” she says.
Nancy was born in San Jose but moved about a bit before settling in Danville. In her day job she works as an IT project manager for John Muir, but she has also, over the years, put in some serious work toward enlightening others about autism through Cure Autism Now.
Her children – son Connor is 19, daughter Sarah is 21 – are both in college but to keep her company while they're away she has a dog, a rescue cat and a built-up Land Rover Defender 90 (that she says draws some serious envy). For fun she goes to Disneyland, studies languages (including modern Greek), researches nutritional strategies, reads history, and works in her garden.
Oh. And then there's SAR … again. This time she's going to start by venturing more into USAR training.
The SAR team wisdom that Nancy offers is that “It takes a team to find a person.”
As an example, she cites a search in which she and her teammates spent several hours simply standing on a road.
“The strategy was to flush out an autistic boy by moving him forward with the noise of searchers and helicopters,” she says. “It worked! He was found that day after spending a night in the woods.”
In essence, “even though a team member might not get a very glamorous assignment, everyone plays an important part,” she says. “All I did was stand on a road. If I hadn't done my part along with everyone else doing their parts as perimeters, the strategy would not have worked.”
So now she's back and ready to do her part.