How We Do It
In Alberta, search and rescue activities are divided between national parks, provincial parks, and the rest of Alberta. The province has two of the most recognized national parks in the world, Banff and Jasper, followed by Kananaskis provincial park and Kananaskis Country. Highly trained and paid, search and rescue personnel provide the necessary services in these large, frequently visited areas.
Outside of these areas and commissioned by local tasking agencies, including law enforcement, fire rescue, and emergency medical services, Search and Rescue Alberta teams respond by providing trained and equipped personnel during ground and inland water incidents requiring search and/or technical rescue expertise. Search and Rescue Alberta teams respond within a geographical area, typically based on provincial RCMP detachment boundaries. Each team operates as the primary or lead group within their area, while providing mutual aid support to adjoining groups across the province when requested.
Local authorities are responsible for emergency management within their jurisdiction. Search and rescue responders may be requested to assist with incidents (e.g. swift water rescue during a flood) or act in emergency management disaster response roles (e.g. evacuation of residents due to interface fire threat). These incidents can escalate and activate a province wide response through the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre within the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
RCMP and municipal police services are responsible for search and rescue for lost, missing, and overdue persons within their jurisdictions. Often searches result in the need for rescue of those injured or trapped. Search and rescue is included in the contract between the RCMP and the province of Alberta. RCMP K-Division has a provincial Search and Rescue Coordinator to support operational coordination and reimbursement.
Once contacted by the police, RCMP, municipality, EMS, or an applicable provincial ministry, the Search and Rescue Alberta team will assemble at a predetermined place with required resources, establish situational awareness of the incident and begin their work. Search and Rescue Albertateams also support the RCMP during search and rescue incidents on First Nation reserves. Many First Nations are looking to establish their own search and rescue programs and have connected with Search and Rescue Alberta over shared training opportunities. The O’Chiese First Nation is the first of its kind within the province to establish such a program. Currently there are 6 fully trained search and rescue members who are members of the O’Chiese Fire Department.