Background

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.

 

Purpose

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.

 

More Information

For more information about this work, please contact Lexie Busby, Project Leader, at lexie.busby@saralberta.ca or Wendy Hetherington, Program Developer, at wendy.hetherington@saralberta.ca.

Search and rescue Alberta team conducting a search in snow

Edmonton Regional Search and Rescue Association (ERSARA) conducting a search in the snowy river valley.

 

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 – 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

SAR Alberta teams are also vital to the projects 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