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Ground SAR Core Competency Standards

In 2015, the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC), the national body for ground SAR (GSAR) in Canada, presented the CSA Z1620, Core Competency Standards for ground SAR operations: searcher, team leader, and SAR manager.

These standards were developed in collaboration with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and a dedicated panel of SAR experts from federal, provincial/territorial, local, and volunteer search and/or rescue agencies and organizations representing all GSAR stakeholders in Canada, and CSA Group.

Search and Rescue Alberta has adopted these standards for all member teams. These standards provide many benefits for SAR Alberta including:

  • SAR volunteers in Canada have common skills, language and competencies;
  • Interoperability of teams among provinces and territories is enhanced;
  • Portability of basic GSAR skills across Canada;
  • Economies of scale in the development and delivery of GSAR training can be enhanced;
  • Provides confidence and assurance to authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) for SAR response;
  • Enhanced safety for volunteers, demonstrates due diligence;
  • Minimizing duplication of effort (training curriculums, exercising ideas, procedures and policies)
  • Encourages professionalism within the GSAR community.

As of 2022, these standards are currently in their 5-year review cycle to continue to improve and evolve. SARVAC further encourages users of these standards to forward all suggestions for improvement and revision to SARVAC ( and CSA Group ( as they emerge.

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SARVAC National Accreditation and Certification Pilot (NACP) Project

As a part of implementing the CSA GSAR standards across Canada and ensuring professionalism in provincial SAR programs, SARVAC launched the National Accreditation and Certification Pilot (NACP) project. This pilot is the start of the national recognition program and aids each province in ensuring that a Searcher, Team Leader and/or SAR Manager has met and are fully trained to the CSA Z1620-15 Core competency standards for GSAR operations.

In late 2022, this project started with the certification of SAR Searchers and Search and Rescue Alberta currently has 16 volunteers piloting this program to support both the national level and the implementation of this program in Alberta.

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This pilot is a key aspect of the Search and Rescue Alberta Revitalization to Enhance All Hazards Response Project.

Search and Rescue Alberta Revitalization to Enhance All Hazards Response Project


Over its 30-year history organized volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) in Alberta has grown and adapted as need dictated.

In the last seven years, Alberta has experienced a number of unprecedented events including major floods and devastating urban-interface-wildfires. COVID-19 has added further challenges, including a significant increase in search and rescue events during Summer 2020, as tens of thousands of people flocked to Alberta’s wilderness areas to “staycation.”

Other factors impacting search and rescue in the province include the development of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Core Competency Standard, the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada’s (SARVAC) Certification/Accreditation project, and requests from First Nation organizations to assist in the development of their own search and rescue programs.


Funded by the Public Safety Canada New Initiatives Fund (NIF), the purpose of this project is to develop and implement a more robust and inclusive structure and governance framework for volunteer GSAR that:

  • Is sustainable and supported by volunteers, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), key partners, and stakeholders.
  • Incorporates a certification and accreditation process ensuring all search and rescue personnel are meeting the CSA Core Competency Standards, and other standards applicable to SAR.
  • Works with our partners to develop system-level training for CSA Core Competency Standards (Searcher, Team Leader, Search Manager).
  • Integrates search and rescue into emergency management through the development of a search and rescue emergency response program in collaboration with both provincial and interjurisdictional stakeholders.
  • Enhances national interoperability through multijurisdictional collaboration on emergency management curriculum development and multijurisdictional exercises.
  • Brings First Nations and other diverse groups to the search and rescue table as advisors and collaborators and partners to create a more inclusive and diverse Search and Rescue Alberta.
  • Develop formalized stakeholder agreements that facilitate interjurisdictional search and rescue and response (both traditional search and rescue and emergency response).
  • To ensure a streamlined approach, the project is broken down into three pillars: governance, civil emergency/disaster response, and certification and accreditation.

The outcome of this type of engagement will result in a robust cross-jurisdictional all-hazards GSAR program that benefits all Albertans, First Nations and neighboring provinces and territories.

Supplementary Documentation

The Project’s Stakeholder Committee is comprised of key external stakeholders from Alberta’s search and rescue portfolio. The Stakeholder Committee meets in-person 3 to 4 times a year over the three-year lifecycle of the project. A meeting summary report is produced at the end of each meeting and is included below.

March 2022 Stakeholder Committee Summary Report

June 2022 Stakeholder Committee Summary Report

Sept 2022 Stakeholder Committee Summary Report

SAR Alberta teams are also vital to the project’s consultation process. An in-person All Teams meeting occurs annually over the project lifecycle. A meeting summary report is produced at the end of each meeting and is included below.

June 2022 All Teams Meeting Summary Report