2015 – A Year in Review

2015 was another very busy year for Saskatoon Search and Rescue. Here’s our year in review!

Activations

Team photoThe Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) and RCMP requested our assistance for both urban and rural searches for missing persons.

  • Missing Person Activations:  7
  • Standby Requests (Missing Persons):  3

These were missing person cases that involved those who are most vulnerable – very young children and persons, both young and elderly, with mental and/or physical health concerns. (See map at end of post for more information.)

Saskatchewan Emergency Management and Fire Safety (EMFS) also requested our assistance with the northern fire situation and four of our members, along with volunteers from other SARSAV (Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers) chapters, volunteered days and weeks of their time to help in various aspects of the fire fighting efforts in Buffalo Narrows and La Ronge. Each of the members had a positive experience and came back with a greater appreciation and respect for nature and the people that deal with these situations on a more regular basis.

Charitable Status

SSAR depends solely on fundraising, the generosity of our volunteer members and the support of our community in order to carry out our mission.

On March 1, 2015, Saskatoon Search and Rescue Inc. became a registered charitable organization. It took a lot of time and effort but proved its worth during a major fundraising campaign and has continued to show its worth throughout the year with several personal donations that we can now issue tax receipts for. There is a “Donate Now” link on our website and we utilize both Canada Helps and the Chimp Foundation for online donations.

Emergency Communications Project

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New handheld radio

In May 2015, after almost ten months of fundraising, we were able to complete our Emergency Communications Project. This project included the purchase of portable radios, base station radios and air band radio for our command post, a telescoping antennae mast, portable repeater, satellite communications and more. Thank you to Prairie Mobile Communications for their patience while we fundraised, helping to keep the project within our budget and doing a great job on the install!

With improved interoperable communications with our agencies of jurisdiction, equipment that is capable of operating reliably outdoors in the full range of conditions experienced in Saskatchewan, and expanded communication options with improved cellular reception and satellite capabilities, we are able to provide service to our community in the most effective and efficient way possible during emergency situations.

All this would not have been possible without the amazing generosity of many local businesses, organizations, family, friends and caring citizens. Thank you very much!

Fundraising

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On scene with Command Post

“31 Days of SSAR,” held throughout the month of May, was an education and awareness as well as a fundraising campaign for our Emergency Communications Project. We had a very ambitious goal to raise $31,000 in 31 days. It was a huge success on all fronts from media support, to people attending a gear swap and a fundraising barbecue, to many people, organizations and businesses contributing to our overall goals and a final fundraising total of over $40,000. Our sincerest thanks to:

We have to give a shout out to the team at RaiseAThon who have a great fundraising platform and amazing customer support.

We were also provided with five new Mustang PFDs and two throw bags to add to our inventory of near-water search gear, thanks to SARSAV and the Saskatoon Fire Department, with funding from the Water Education Taskforce, New Initiatives Fund (NIF) grant.

Training

Team Leader briefing

Our Training Committee did a great job of planning and organizing our regular training days and providing information on other opportunities for members to take advantage of. Of note:

  • We certified seven new Team Leaders and one new Basic Searcher (four more Basic Searchers will complete their final requirements in January);
  • Several field days were devoted to scenarios and activities that tested the new radios and other emergency communications equipment;
  • We held a major winter overnight scenario that was designed to challenge many of our team’s capabilities;
  • We field tested a FLIR (forward-looking infrared) camera that one of our new members made available to us through his work; and
  • Three SSAR members instructed a Basic Searcher course for the newly formed Parkland SAR chapter near Melville.

We are also fortunate to be able to call on other organizations to help add to our members’ knowledge base.

Each opportunity to develop our skills increases our team’s capacity for the next call for assistance. We are very excited to see our members grow and strengthen their skills and knowledge.

In the Community

Display at the Saskatoon Police Service Community Barbecue

At the Saskatoon Police Service Community Barbecue

Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) is a goal of all SAR teams. AdventureSmart presentations were done for various youth groups and we set up displays to promote safety in the outdoors and lost person prevention at several events such as the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour hosted by the Saskatchewan Section Alpine Club of Canada, Cabela’s during National Emergency Preparedness Week and Provincial Missing Persons Week (May 3-9, 2015) and the Saskatoon Police Service annual barbecue.

We provided first aid services at the PotashCorp and Cameco skating parties at the Meewasin Skating Rink and for two horse shows at Ebon Stables.

We are also active in the Internet community. Our website, Facebook and Twitter pages provide PSAR information, resources for SAR members, information about our training and much more.

 Our Members

In addition to the time spent training and on activations, SSAR members spent in excess of 3,000 administrative (and volunteer!) hours ensuring the smooth operation of our organization.

SSAR members also get involved in SAR at a provincial and national level. Three members sit on the board of directors of SARSAV and one of these members is also the President of SARVAC.

Jeff Baxter using new base station radio.

Jeff Baxter using new base station radio.

We were very pleased to nominate Jeff Baxter for a National SAR Award of Excellence. Jeff was a SSAR member since 2008 and, in July this year, moved to British Columbia. His knowledge and experience were key to the Emergency Communications Project and many other equipment procurements, improving established training courses and developing new ones, and expanding relationships with our agencies of jurisdiction. He was a great mentor to many of us!

As SSAR member Dale Johnstone noted: “Jeff has made each and every one of us better through the time we’ve spent working with him. Beyond all the accomplishments . . . his impact is most notable in our people. . . He has left the organization a stronger, more capable group that is much better able to serve the community and fulfill its mission. Most importantly, he’s made sure we will keep moving forward without him for years to come and he demonstrated what leadership is truly all about.”

Written by Shelley Ballard-McKinlay

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