Welcome to the National Search & Rescue Secretariat
The National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) is an autonomous arm’s length organization within the Department of National Defence, accountable to the Lead Minister for Search and Rescue who is also the Minister of National Defence.
Established in 1986, the NSS is the central coordinating point for the National Search and Rescue (SAR) Program for the federal element of search and rescue. While it does not direct or manage the work of its partners, the NSS brings them together to encourage collaboration and to ensure best use is made of their diverse resources and capabilities. The following federal departments are responsible for search and rescue delivery in Canada:
Representatives from these organizations comprise the Interdepartmental Committee on Search and Rescue (ICSAR).
Within the non-federal jurisdiction, the NSS works directly with provincial and territorial SAR authorities and police services to develop and standardize the quantity and quality of SAR service available to the provinces and territories. Supporting these major federal and non-federal activities, the NSS provides a facility for conducting major studies and reviews, and it maintains an energetic client communications organization which, amongst its many activities, stages the annual SARSCENE Conference and produces SAR prevention information. The NSS also coordinates the Canadian contribution to the Cospas-Sarsat satellite alerting system, and it monitors the standards and maintains the Canadian Beacon Registry.
A New SAR Initiatives Fund (NIF), established by the federal government in 1988, is managed by the Secretariat on behalf of the Lead Minister for Search and Rescue. SAR NIF provides annual funding for new projects (or initiatives) that will improve the National SAR Program.
In general, the NSS is a centre for SAR coordination and promotion in Canada.
What is the National SAR Program?
The National Search and Rescue Program (NSP) is the name we give to the collection of Search and Rescue services provided by all agencies and individuals in Canada, regardless of type of activity or jurisdiction. The NSP is not a real program run by one organization. It is a collection of autonomous organizations, some government, some volunteer, some military, some emergency services, some emergency measures. These organizations and services have always existed, but we believe in the importance of providing a focal point for all SAR activities. We call this focal point the National Search and Rescue Program.
We have learned that "Search and Rescue" takes many forms in Canada: hoisting from the sea, receiving distress alerts, locating people in distress, navigating across frozen land with few visual cues. We have also learned that there is a collection of skills that each specialist uses that would benefit others, and the NSS wants to foster greater communication to facilitate the exchange of this knowledge to improve SAR. For example, the firefighter can learn rope rescue from the mountaineer, the emergency measures worker can learn extrication from the firefighter. The mountaineer can learn base support planning from the emergency measures worker.
It is important to collect these services under one umbrella to provide a comprehensive safety net, even though operational program delivery is carried out by many agencies and volunteers. The importance of this definition is that it allows for a central focal point for search and rescue, making it easier to gather and share information, exchange knowledge and experience, and explore mixes of skills that might otherwise not occur.