Response to a SAR incident
usually begins in one of three ways:
- Victims themselves
call out for help - by phone, radio, mirror, smoke, flares, spelling
out words with large stones on the ground, etc.
- Someone else notifies
the SAR system - a witness, for example, or a family member or friend,
when someone is overdue.
- An electronic
emergency beacon is triggered. Emergency beacons are most commonly
associated with ships and aircraft, but there are now personal
locator beacons available for wilderness adventurers, hunters, foresters,
park rangers and the like.
Once it is determined
that an incident is genuine - not a false alarm - then trained SAR forces,
paid and/or volunteer, set to work. The type of incident - air, marine
or ground - and the jurisdiction, determines who does what and when.
For instance -
- If a group of hunters
doesn't return home for supper on Sunday evening, as planned, family
members will probably phone the police. The police may enlist the help
of SAR volunteers and tracking dogs. Ground searchers will be called
to gather in one place, usually close to the 'place last seen' (PLS).
From there the search will proceed along well-established lines determined
by the latest training methods and years of experience. Determining
where and how far away from the PLS to look is both an art and a science
that makes use of contour maps, analysis of previous searches and probability
- If a ship founders
off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the Canadian Coast Guard will come
to the rescue, but Canadian Forces aircraft, ships of opportunity and
the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary
could also get involved.
- If an aircraft
goes down in the forested mountains of British Columbia, then the Joint
Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC*) will task the Canadian Forces and
CASARA to find it.
*Three JRCCs (Victoria,
and Trenton, Ontario) co-ordinate marine and aeronautical SAR response
across Canada, in the oceans around Canada and on the Great Lakes. They
also co-ordinate requests for assistance from other levels of government.
JRCCs are staffed
by Canadian Forces and Canadian Coast Guard personnel, who respond to
tens of thousands of radio and telephone calls, resulting in nearly 8
000 SAR cases annually - about 80 per cent of these are maritime related.
Two Marine Rescue
Sub-Centres, operated by the Canadian Coast Guard, and located in Quebec
City and St. John's, Newfoundland, co-ordinate marine responses in specific
- a SAR Leader