SARSCENE 2006 wraps up in Gatineau
Strength in Community was the theme for this year's SARSCENE workshop, held in Gatineau Québec in October. This year's event hosted over 650 delegates and offered a bit of everything: from expert instruction in tracking; academic research and international perspectives on marine SAR, to discussions on leadership.
The 15th annual workshop got started on Wednesday October 4th with 8 teams from across Canada participating in the SARSCENE Games. Lac Leamy Park was an excellent setting for a series of competitions which saw teams show their skill at everything from knot tying, scene management, first aid and search management on an incredibly wet and foggy day!
At day's end the competitors gathered for the games awards ceremony and the Toronto Heavy Urban SAR Unit picked up the gold medal, their second. Sūreté du Québec East finished in second place followed by Sūreté du Québec West. Other teams were York Regional Police, Parks Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue Volunteer Association, PEI Ground SAR and Greater Fundy Ground SAR. Congratulations to everyone who participated and to those who found the park in the fog to watch the teams at work.
The media showed strong interest in SARSCENE, featuring the demonstrations and trade show in national newscasts.
Presentations were the focus of the workshop and this year's speakers brought a wealth of information to the delegates. Marine SAR was well represented with Small Craft Simulation from Virtual Marine Technology, Environment Canada's Marine Forecast Program and the launching of Parks Canada Agency's new Sea Kayaking safety video.
Research into avalanche safety was presented by the Canadian Avalanche Association and the Avalanche Centre of Gaspé, Québec, including an exciting new predictor model called the Avaluator.
CASARA celebrated its 20th anniversary with a tribute at the opening ceremony and the Canadian Forces provided a great presentation on the new Canada Command. The Transportation Safety Board gave information on searcher safety on-scene at air crashes.
Canine SAR expertise was shared by Dave Walker of the Hamilton Police, who offered both pre-workshop and regular presentations to our delegates.
Technology was a highlight, with numerous agencies presenting modeling programs and focusing on interoperability issues for communications and other equipment.
International perspectives from the United Kingdom, Iceland, the United States, New Zealand and South Africa showed how nations can differ in their management of SAR and how Canada's system is perceived worldwide. St. John Ambulance of Canada brought in a delegation from Sri Lanka who have spent over six months in Canada learning about emergency planning and response.
The National Search and Rescue Secretariat presented the SAR New Initiatives Fund application process, and highlighted the changes in its redesign of the program. These presentations were very well attended and numerous NIF-funded projects were highlighted throughout the workshop.
This year over 50 exhibitors brought their products and services to SARSCENE and enjoyed having such a great crowd of delegates in the trade show hall. With numerous first-time exhibitors, this year's show was a great success and offered everything from satellite communications technologies and all-terrain vehicles to comfortable boots and waterproof gear! The extended hours and lunches in the trade show hall guaranteed lots of shopping time for delegates.
Prevention Working Group
The NSS also hosted the SAR Prevention Working Group Meeting which featured a an open forum discussion on key issues such as data collection and measurement of behavioral change as well as a presentation by Cyndie Jones of B.C.'s successful Adventure Smart. Participants represented a wide range of agencies and departments, such as: the RCMP, Canadian Safe Boating Council, Canadian Avalanche Centre, Lifesaving Society, CASARA, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and more. Plans are underway to revamp the prevention presence on the NSS website and to hold a full-day meeting in conjunction with SARSCENE 2007.
SAR Marine and Air Demonstration
The weather couldn't have been better for the outdoor demonstrations and hundreds of members of the public spent their Saturday afternoon, eyes skyward to take in the sights, sounds and splashes of the Canadian Forces demonstration on Lac Leamy.
Photo by Ivan Hansen
A Sūreté du Québec vessel in the water and Canadian Forces aircraft simulated the rescue of a boat in distress. A Canadian Forces Hercules aircraft and parachuting SAR Techs were a great hit with the crowd. A Canadian Forces CH-146 Griffon helicopter then hovered over the boat and hoisted the SAR Tech and the victim' up into the helicopter for evacuation.
They're hoisting what?
Back on land, a Sūreté du Québec Bell 412 helicopter hoisted a K9 unit into the area and search for a handglider who had collided with a tree. After receiving first aid treatment, the victim and dog were hoisted back into the helicopter.
The sunshine, crowd and the opportunity to check out helicopters in the park made for an exciting day in Gatineau.
This year, two Outstanding SAR Achievement Awards were presented at the annual SARSCENE awards ceremony for outstanding contributions to SAR in Canada.
Ian Cunnings, Coquitlam SAR
Ian Cunnings of Coquitlam SAR has earned the respect of B.C.'s SAR community and has taken part in nearly all large-scale operations in south western BC for the last 15 years. From large urban searches for missing children to rescues of injured hikers from wooded, mountainous or avalanche terrain, Ian's expertise and leadership are a tremendous asset to every search.
Robert Petitpas, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary
Robert Petitpas passed away in 2006, the award was accepted by his wife Claudette Petitpas.
Picture taken at SARSCENE 2004
Robert joined the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1981. In 2004, he became Chief Executive Officer of the CCGA. As CEO he signed a memorandum of understanding with Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard which demonstrated their common goals of promoting boating safety and protecting the maritime safety interests of Canadians.
CERTIFICATES OF ACHIEVEMENT
The following people received Certificates of Achievement at the annual SARSCENE awards ceremony for their commitment to search and rescue.
The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is one of the most dangerous and remote regions of Canada, but that hasn't stopped Rick Holmes, Warden Supervisor of the West Coast Trail Unit, from rising to the area's challenges for over 20 years. Rick has shown exemplary leadership skills through the training and mentoring of countless staff in areas such as rescue management and equipment operation. With an average of 80 to 120 recovery actions annually in the area, Rick has been instrumental in rescue assessment and coordination, judging volatile weather and sea conditions, and ensuring patients' needs are met in this isolated region.
Neil Brewer is a respected and sound administrator who consistently prepares his team for field operations. His solid leadership skills and meticulous management style have left their mark on search and rescue in British Columbia. With a keen ability to solve problems, implement plans, and see them through to a successful end, Neil has a passion for making things better for everyone. Neil's Radio Interoperability Program saw 96 SAR teams throughout BC receive radio kits and upgrades. Neil's impact on SAR in BC is immeasurable — he stands out as an exceptional leader, innovator and mentor.
Guy Lapointe's commitment to search and rescue is not limited to humans — his love for his four-legged friends, and the incredible skills these dogs are capable of, drove Guy to establish Sauvetage Canin des Laurentides, a non-profit organization and one of the most renowned SAR dog team groups in Québec in 1993. Guy has participated in 42 search and rescue operations in Québec, New Brunswick and the United States. In 2005 alone, he devoted 776 hours to training and supervised over 4,500 hours of instruction to his group.
Mathieu Bourdon and Martin Desrosiers
Mathieu Bourdon and Martin Desrosiers launched the Awareness and Safety Organization for Sea Kayaking — or l'OPS Kayak de Mer — in 2001. Sponsored by Parks Canada, the organization is the first of its kind in Québec. The organization provides high-quality education and training services to help prevent incidents on the water. More than 2,300 kayakers have received information at its centre. Only a few months after the organization was launched, kayaking incidents were reduced by 50% in the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve.
K9 SAR Training
Pre-Workshop: Canine Search and Rescue
Article and photos by Ivan Hansen
The SAR community was well represented with three Police, eight SAR Volunteers, a firefighter, and nine dogs attending Dave Walker's K9 seminar. Assisting lead instructor Walker and K9 Wile E. were Hetty Abma, and Ray Lau with their dogs, Ryker and Ace.
The purpose of the course was to troubleshoot and problem-solve with in-service dogs, and to show new handlers what's required.
Dave spoke from experience, "People may start training a family pet in obedience, and agility, and then ask themselves what else can I do? They may become interested in tracking, and wonder if they could use their dog for SAR. If the dog has a high drive, it may work out, but a lot of the dogs wash out. At that point, people either give up, or find a dog that can do it."
Topics for discussion included selection of handlers and dogs, training equipment, basic and maintenance training, certification, public demonstrations, and deployment with a police agency.
What do they need to do? K9 teams tasks include tracking, area, article, and building searches, obedience, agility, water and cadaver searches. Training is conducted in every season, in rural and urban settings, both on land and on water.
Walker also explained what's required of the two-legged partner. Handlers must be healthy, fit, dedicated, passionate, motivated, positive, and able to follow direction, with good interpersonal skills. They must be clue seekers not glory seekers.
"A strong drive is more important than the specific breed," Dave said. So which breeds are best for SAR? Preferred breeds include German and Dutch Shepherds, Malinois, and mixed breeds.
Night exercises in Lac Leamy Park assessed the dog's drive and article searches were conducted, followed by obedience and agility drills. Building search scenarios were conducted at a nearby Gatineau Public Works building.
On victim searches Walker's team's dogs can go off lead, therefore into areas where it may not be practical for a police dog to go. "The SAR dogs complement the patrol dogs."
In 2003, Walker trained three volunteer dogs to assist Hamilton police officers. Along with Hetty Abma and Ray Lau, Walker founded the Hamilton Police Volunteer SAR K9 teams. Dogs are certified to the Hamilton Police Standard.
Ivan Hansen is an acting fire captain and freelance public safety journalist.
Author's note: Special thanks to Officers Jean Bourdeau, and François Brochu of the Gatineau Police who acted as our local guides during SARSCENE.
Quebec SAR volunteers hold first province-wide training
Quebec Volunteers Hold Training Weekend
In the days leading up to SARSCENE 2006, the Sūreté du Québec (SQ) and the Québec Association of Search and Rescue Volunteers held a training weekend at the Tim Horton's Children's Foundation Camp in Quyon, Québec.
With an outstanding facility and a great lineup of trainers, the event attracted hundreds of Québec volunteers.
A full weekend of speakers from the SQ, Parks Canada, SERABEC and others gave the Québec volunteers an opportunity to share their skills and experiences.
The SQ also used this training weekend as a chance to honour volunteers who have made significant contributions to the search and rescue in Québec. Mr. Yves Duguay-Gagné of SAR Québec-Metro was presented with a commemorative Canada Post SAR stamp in recognition of his dedication to SAR.
A second gift was given to Mrs. Claudette Petitpas in honour of the work of her late husband, Robert Petitpas, former Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
This was the first provincial training weekend held in Québec and its success demonstrates that the demand is there. Organizers Yves Nadeau of the volunteer association and Capt. René Marchand of the SQ brought together an impressive lineup of instructors to make the most of this training opportunity.
For more information on the weekend, please visit the website: www.aqbrs.com/index_AQBRS_2006.htm.
New Zealand SAR
Evolution of SAR in New Zealand
New Zealand is a country of rare and rugged beauty. Glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers and rugged coastlines share the islands with less idyllic features like hissing geysers and boiling mud.
Area: 268,680 sq km,
103,737 sq miles,
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +12 ()
With its diverse terrain, abundant natural hazards and sparse population, New Zealand shares many characteristics with Canada. Bearing these similarities in mind, the New Zealand SAR Council has been looking to Canada's search and rescue program as a model on which to base their management of SAR services.
Duncan Ferner, the SAR Secretariat Manager for the New Zealand SAR Council, outlined his country's system at SARSCENE 2006. Explaining the weather challenges that face Kiwi searchers, Ferner explained, "Because we don't have a continental weather pattern, you can quite literally experience all four seasons in one day. Combine that with cold fronts originating in the Antarctic ice shelf and you end up with dramatic shifts in conditions that leave adventurers and searchers in dangerous territory."
Jean Murray, NSS Executive Director presents the Canada Post search and rescue stamps to Duncan Ferner, the SAR Secretariat Manager for the New Zealand SAR Council.
The nation's government has also shifted dramatically in that after a period of very liberal governance, the nation's administration became quite conservative and in so doing, contracted agencies to deal with search and rescue and emphasized personal responsibility for outdoor safety. Marine, air and land-based SAR services were all under separate funding and administered in isolation.
Delivering search and rescue (SAR) response in a country such as this is a challenge. In 2003, after a review of the governance of New Zealand SAR, the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council was formed and after further review the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was established. The RCCNZ coordinates all major aviation and marine incidents in the region.
New Zealand's SAR Region stretches from the mid-Tasmanian Sea to halfway to Chile; from Antarctica almost to the Equator and includes Niue, Tonga, Samoa, Tokelau and the Cook Islands. In its first year of operation (2004-2005) the RCCNZ coordinated 871 SAR incidents. Their area of responsibility is the one of the three largest in the world, covering 1/12th of the earth's waters.
In addition to the SAR Council, New Zealand uses a SAR Consultative Committee to address technical issues and provide advice. Members represent wide range of interests: Department of Conservation (National Parks); Coast Guard (volunteers) Land SAR Association; Aviation Industry Association; Amateur Radio Emergency Communications; and Surf Lifesaving organizations.
Royal New Zealand Coast Guard Federation
The Royal New Zealand Coast Guard is entirely voluntary. While units are spread throughout New Zealand, because no funding is provided for the Coast Guard, the government cannot direct where units need to be. Relying solely on funds raised through annual lotteries, the Coast Guard has over 1800 trained members who donate their time, boats and personal equipment to provide response.
Currently, there is no dedicated air SAR service in New Zealand. The New Zealand Air Force no longer provides SAR service. While six government-owned aircraft (P3K Orions) are available 95% of the time, there are only four crews and operational commitments in the Arabian Gulf. Duncan Ferner reports that the government has signed off on a very large electronics upgrade and improved radios so they can cover a larger sweep of the Ocean. Two Huey helicopters are also available on standby but have no winch capabilities.
The RCC uses a suite of ambulance helicopters owned and operated by a private company, which means the helicopters are based close to their pilots and not necessarily close to areas of high activity.
"This is one of the larger frustration points," said Ferner. "Whatever's flying in the region is deployed to effect the rescue while other helicopters are in transit. We are trying to get new service level agreements in place and we do perform reviews after every incident, but right now, there's no strategic plan for locating SAR resources."
The New Zealand Police coordinate ground SAR. With trained SAR coordinators in each district, the police annually respond to over 1100 land and marine SAR incidents, often working with volunteer groups like the Royal NZ Coast Guard Federation and the New Zealand Land SAR teams. Responding to calls about overdue hikers, hunters, boaters, the police are usually the first point of contact for SAR incidents not involving aircraft or coastal waters.
"We're really still evolving," says Ferner. "But now that some of the basic reporting and structural aspects have been established, we can look at key issues like where SAR resources need to be, clearing up roles and responsibilities in all jurisdictions and making sure we're able to provide efficient SAR response throughout the region."
At the November New Zealand Land SAR conference, Ms. Jean Murray, Executive Director of the NSS, Dr. Bob Koester of Virginia, USA, lost person behaviour expert and Sgt. Don Webster, Ontario Provincial Police, were invited to provide insight into how SAR is managed and delivered in North America. The conference was attended by 200 volunteers and provided an opportunity to explain why Canada has been so successful with its SAR program. "The key to Canada's success has been the seamless collaboration between all agencies involved in search and rescue," said Ms Murray. "Collaboration and coordination have been the foundation of our success."
Prevention and Outreach
One of the great success stories in New Zealand has been their campaign to raise awareness of the impending transition from 121.5 to 406 MHz distress radio beacons in 2009. Their ad campaign has been aggressively launched in order to reach users. "While you can't make it illegal to own a 121.5 MHz beacon, you can stop them from flying," explained Ferner. By July 1, 2008, aircraft with the old beacons will be prohibited from flying in New Zealand.
With Tolkien fans descending in great numbers on New Zealand, the increased perception of the country as a green outdoor paradise has led to an increase in SAR incidents. In the past three years, the number of land SAR incidents has increased by 61%; marine incidents have increased by 9%. It is expected that these numbers will continue to increase as tourism levels grow and more of New Zealand's rugged territory is explored.
By Captain Nicole Meszaros
It was raining SAR Techs (Search and Rescue Technicians) as the National Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) 2006 wrapped up at at 22 Wing North Bay on September 29 after a week of intense competition involving SAR units from across Canada.
The goal of this year's National SAREX was to help SAR squadrons and units from the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) from across the country work together in a common environment, to allow them to test their standards and evaluate their proficiency amongst each other.
Congratulations to this year's winners!
- Team Spirit Award - for the unit demonstrating the best esprit de corps in all phases of SAREX - Civil Air Search and Rescue Association from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
- Search and Rescue Trophy - for the unit with the best performance in the search event - 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 14 Wing Greenwood.
- Allison Trophy - for the team with the best performance in the parachuting accuracy event - Combat Support Team, 417, 439, 444 Combat Support Squadrons of 4 Wing Cold Lake, 3 Wing Bagotville 5 Wing Goose Bay
- Leslie L. Irvin Trophy - for the individual with the best performance in the parachuting event - Sergeant Kevin Bergquist, 417 Combat Support Squadron, 4 Wing Cold Lake.
- Sullivan Trophy - for the team judged to have performed the best in the medical exercise event - 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 19 Wing Comox.
- Maintenance Trophy - for the best maintenance team in the maintenance event - 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 14 Wing Greenwood.
- Diamond Trophy - for the unit with the best overall performance in all five events - 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 8 Wing Trenton
- Search and Rescue Technician (SAR Tech) SAR Tech of the Year Award - for the SAR Tech voted best SAR Tech by the Para Rescue Association of Canada Master Corporal Sean MacEachern, 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 14 Wing Greenwood.
Next year's National SAREX will be held at 5 Wing Goose Bay, Labrador.
A SARSCENE 2007 preview
The Province of British Columbia's Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) in cooperation with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) is pleased to announce that they will beare co-hosting SARSCENE 2007 with the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) in Victoria from October 18 17 to 20, 2007.
The theme for SARSCENE 2007 is "the spirit of search and rescue", which embodies the cooperation between agencies in responding to air, ground, and marine incidents in British Columbia and across Canada. Building on the successes of past conferences, SARSCENE 2007 will provide an excellent forum for . SAR personnel to highlight and share best practices.
Please join us for SARSCENE 2007 at the Victoria Conference Centre, adjacent to the world- renowned Empress Hotel on the Victoria harbour.
Come early or extend your stay to take in the sights and many activities in the Victoria a area, up Vancouver Island and throughout the Province.
Jim McAllister, B.C. Provincial Emergency Program