Project Details

Helicopter searching for missing person


Volunteering to finding missing persons

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Organisation Twitter: @lizaalertorg

  • Community Engagement
  • Social Software

LizaAlert is a decentralised network of volunteers standing by to search for children or elderly people who have gone missing in Russia. 

Bungled, unprofessional, inactive or aborted missing-persons searches are tragically common in Russia. In 2010, five-year-old Liza Fomkina and her aunt went missing in a forest just outside of Moscow. The official search was delayed by government officials, and despite 500 people answering the subsequent cry for help, it still took nine days before the volunteers found Liza’s dead body, close to that of her aunt. 'If only we were a little bit faster, Liza would have been alive,' said one of the searchers.

Liza’s story went viral and acted as the spur to launch the rescue network: today it has 1,300 members.

Each missing-person case is first vetted by moderators, who interview parents, police and witnesses, before posting details on the website: in most cases a team of between 20 and 30 people can be out and searching within just five hours, with about 50 people participating in searches on a weekly basis. 

As well as actively conducting searches, the site serves an advocacy function: the team actively seeks media coverage to raise awareness of the scale and scandal of government inaction in the face of these incidents, and to try to encourage police and emergency services to carry out their professional duties. 

Searches are characterised by a high level of professionalism: teams set up mobile headquarters, and equipment includes GPS navigators, compasses and radios, with volunteers donating time and services online as well as on the ground, for example in creating very detailed maps of areas where the person has gone missing, and finding local printers who can print them for local teams. Others volunteer equipment, such as snowmobiles that have proved vital in remote searches. 

Image courtesy of LizaAlert

Last updated: 05th of September, 2014

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