2014 – A Year in Review
For Saskatoon Search and Rescue, 2014 has been an incredible year of growth. Building strong relationships, increasing membership, community support, valuable training and activations. We are riding into 2015 on a wave of enthusiasm generated by our members and support from our agencies of jurisdiction and our community!
We had a record number of requests for service in 2014 from the Saskatoon Police Service and RCMP. We were assigned a wide variety of tasks that included both urban and rural searches for missing persons and evidence searches.
- Missing Person Activations: 11
- Standby Requests (Missing Persons): 5
- Evidence Search Activations: 2
The vast majority of missing person cases involved those who are the most vulnerable – young children, people with special needs such as autism, and older adults suffering from dementia. Most of the standby requests were for incidents occurring some distance away from Saskatoon; we would have been activated if a second operational period was required. The evidence searches included one in relation to a homicide investigation and the other was a search for human remains that resulted in the confirmed identification of a missing person, thereby bringing some measure of peace to a family and a community.
We also had a record amount of training in 2014. SSAR has many talented and dedicated people who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with others. They put in countless hours to plan and organize our monthly training days, major search exercises and other specialty training. In addition to in-house training, we have amazing support from other agencies in order to supplement our training requirements.
We re-vamped the Basic Searcher Course, covering all the required information plus much, much more over a 4-month period. Two courses were held, starting in January and September, resulting in 15 new and enthusiastic members.
Major search exercises included a one-day urban search exercise with the Saskatoon Police Service Public Safety Unit and a two-day rural search exercise with the RCMP SAR Hasty Team.
For the first time ever we organized and hosted an Evidence Search course that included presentations from Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Ernie Walker and RCMP Sgt. Pete Garvey as well as a practical outdoor component. Members of the Saskatoon Police Service and members of SARSAV (Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers) chapters from Regina, North Corman Park, Big River, Prince Albert North, Porcupine Plain and Hwy 55 also attended.
The use of bicycles in SAR is a valuable asset, particularly in the urban environment. Two LEBA (Law Enforcement Bicycle Association) instructors from the Saskatoon Police Service taught the technical riding portion of our Bike SAR course.
One of our members had a very unique opportunity to be part of the organizing team and act as Search Manager for a major 4-day exercise in Yellowknife, NWT.
Two members, on their own initiative, took a 9-day Advanced Wilderness First Aid Course in Canmore, AB. Ideas brought back from the course have been incorporated into our first aid scenarios.
SSAR supported the Saskatoon Fire Department’s application for a SAR New Initiatives Fund grant for the purchase of side-scanning sonar, training for rescue boat operators and development of public education materials for water safety. This application was successful and, to date, one of our members attended the Small Vessel Operator Proficiency Course delivered by Onsite Marine Safety.
Other training included:
- Search Manager Course hosted by SARSAV;
- Critical Incident Stress Management hosted by the Saskatoon Fire Department;
- Scribe course hosted by the Saskatoon Police Service;
- AdventureSmart presenter training hosted by SARSAV;
- Various ICS (Incident Command System) training courses hosted by Saskatoon Emergency Measures Organization; and
- Ambiguous Loss workshop hosted by the Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons.
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
Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) is a goal of all SAR teams. We set up displays to promote safety in the outdoors and lost person prevention at the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, hosted by the Saskatchewan Section Alpine Club of Canada, and at Cabela’s Spring Outdoor Days. During National Emergency Preparedness Week and Provincial Missing Persons Week (May 4-10, 2014) we did several media interviews to promote PSAR education.
We assisted Saskatoon EMO to staff the NotifyNow booth at Taste of Saskatchewan, encouraging Saskatoon residents to sign up for notifications in times of emergency.
We provided first aid services at the following events:
- PotashCorp Skating Party at the Meewasin Skating Rink
- Cameco Family Day Skating Party at the Meewasin Skating Rink
- International Society of Arboriculture Tree Climbing Competition
We are also active in the Internet community! A new SSAR website was launched in January 2014 which, along with our Facebook and Twitter pages, provides PSAR information, resources for SAR members, information about our training, and much more.
SSAR depends solely on fundraising and the support of our community in order to carry out our mission. Our success is largely due to the contributions of our volunteer members and people, businesses and organizations in the community who believe in the importance of our work.
We are presently fundraising for our Emergency Communications Project and are thrilled that we are over half way to our $50,000+ goal. Thank you so much to the Dakota Dunes Community Development Corporation, Kinsmen Club of Saskatoon, Axon Development Corporation, SGI CANADA and the Rotary Club of Saskatoon Riverside for your support of this project. Timely response and reliable communication is of the essence when our services are required.
In addition to the time spent training and on activations, SSAR members spent many, many hours ensuring the smooth operation of our organization. Planning the training, liaising with our agencies of jurisdiction, writing funding applications and doing presentations to potential funders, and performing other administrative duties.
Our members also get involved in SAR at a provincial and national level. Two members sit on the board of directors of SARSAV and one of these members is also the Vice President of SARVAC (Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada).
We were very pleased that SSAR member Scott Wright was presented with the 2014 Shield Award at the Rotary Club of Saskatoon’s annual Badge, Shield and Star Dinner and was recognized by Fire Chief Dan Paulsen for his “outstanding commitment and leadership to Saskatoon Search and Rescue as well as the provincial and federal search and rescue organizations.”
Written by Shelley Ballard-McKinlay
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