National Search and Rescue Program

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A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopter hoists a man from a Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) vessel.
A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-115 Buffalo fixed wing SAR aircraft from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron. All Buffalo aircraft in the RCAF are based at CFB Comox and are tasked exclusively by JRCC Victoria.
A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-146 Griffon helicopter in the SAR paint scheme. From their acquisition by the RCAF in 1995 until 2005, the only Griffons used for SAR were in "combat support squadrons" at major RCAF bases to provide SAR support in the event of the loss of another RCAF aircraft. Combat support squadrons flying the Griffon are located at CFB Cold Lake, CFB Bagotville and CFB Goose Bay. In 2005 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron at CFB Trenton re-equipped with the Griffon to replace its fleet of CH-149 Cormorants as a primary SAR helicopter for central Canada.
A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-149 Cormorant helicopter exercising with the Royal Canadian Navy's (RCN) HMCS Saskatoon.

The National Search and Rescue Program (NSP) is the name given by the Government of Canada to the collective search and rescue (SAR) activities in Canada. The NSP is administered by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) and it provides for the coordination of public policy for the provision of SAR services.

The primary goal of the NSP is to save lives at risk throughout Canada's Search and Rescue Region of Responsibility (SRR); this includes all of Canada's land mass as well as areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans as designated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The NSP involves federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, non-profit organizations, and volunteers working together to provide search and rescue in Canada.

Organizational structure[edit]

The Lead Minister for Search and Rescue (LMSAR) in the Government of Canada is the Minister of National Defence. Responsibilities are broken down within the federal government as follows:

Operational SAR response

The Department of National Defence is the lead ministry responsible for providing and coordinating SAR response for incidents involving aircraft that occur both on land as well as in all of Canada's ocean and inland waters. This is accomplished through the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), which provides personnel (air controllers) for the three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs) as well as various dedicated SAR squadrons of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is tasked with responding to emergencies involving vessels that occur in waters of federal responsibility; this includes all navigable ocean waters on Canada's Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts, plus the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and portions of connecting waterways. This is accomplished through the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), which provides personnel (marine controllers) for the three JRCCs, as well as various dedicated SAR vessels for inshore, near shore and off shore operations.

The three JRCCs are:

Regulatory SAR policy

The National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) is an independent agency of the federal government, reporting to the LMSAR, and supports and promotes the activities of the National SAR Program (NSP) as a means to achieve highly effective and economically responsible search and rescue programs throughout Canada. The NSS was established as a national coordinating authority for SAR policy in Canada; this was one of the key recommendations resulting from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Ocean Ranger disaster.

The Department of Transport, through its civil aviation and marine safety programs, plays a supporting role to the NSP by working to prevent air and marine transport incidents requiring a search and rescue response. This is accomplished through policies relating to regulations, inspections, enforcement, and safety promotion functions.

Air SAR resources[edit]

Air resources for responding to search and rescue incidents in Canada are coordinated by, and often supplied by, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Due to their rapid response, air resources are often the first equipment tasked to respond in remote inland, coastal or offshore locations, regardless of whether it is for an aircraft or marine incident.

  • Other aircraft operated by other federal government departments and agencies such as the RCMP, Department of Transport, or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard may be requested as secondary air resources by the RCAF.
  • Under ICAO conventions, any aircraft of opportunity that may be transiting the search area may be requested by the RCAF to participate in the search, provided the aircraft of opportunity is able to.

Marine SAR resources[edit]

Marine resources for responding to search and rescue incidents in Canada are coordinated by, and often supplied by, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). Marine resources are most often tasked to respond to a marine incident in waters of federal jurisdiction, however, they can also be tasked to respond to incidents involving an aircraft if that should also occur in waters of federal jurisdiction.

  • The CCG provides all primary marine resources for responding to SAR incidents in waters of federal jurisdiction. This includes dedicated SAR vessels stationed at strategic locations as well as the rest of the CCG fleet.
  • Other vessels operated by other federal government departments and agencies such as the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) or RCMP may be requested as secondary marine resources by the CCG.
  • The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) supplies civilian vessels sailed by volunteer owners in support of the CCG's SAR operations upon the request of the CCG.
  • Under IMO conventions, any vessel of opportunity that may be transiting the search area may be requested by the CCG to participate in the search, provided the vessel of opportunity is able to.

Parks Canada SAR resources[edit]

Within Canada's national parks, SAR resources and operations are supplied and coordinated by Parks Canada. This also includes national marine conservation areas, national park reserves, national historic sites, and national historic canals. In larger national parks that see a high degree of visitor usage, or have unique dangers for park visitors (e.g. ocean waters, mountains, back country, etc.), Parks Canada supplies its own dedicated SAR resources in the form of specialized staff and equipment. Parks Canada often requests support from other federal resources, including the RCAF, CCG, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as well as provincial/territorial or municipal resources, depending on the location of the incident.

Ground and inland water SAR resources[edit]

In areas of provincial or territorial jurisdiction (e.g. on land or in inland lakes and rivers that are non-federal waters), SAR resources are coordinated by provincial or territorial governments. Response to, and the coordination and supply of resources to, a ground or inland water SAR incident in a province or territory is the responsibility of the provincial or territorial police agency (or a municipal police agency). That police agency, in coordination with the provincial or territorial (or municipal) government, may request federal resources to assist in responding to a ground or inland water SAR incident. This is often in the form of RCAF or CASARA aircraft and occasionally in the form of CCG or CCGA vessels (usually trailer deployed small craft). These requests are coordinated through inter-government agreements.

All provinces and territories have volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) organizations that assist the responding police agency by providing the large amount of manpower necessary for a ground search, as well as specialized expertise, equipment, and local knowledge. The Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) is the national body representing ground and inland water SAR volunteers in Canada.

Alberta

In Alberta, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in Alberta and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the SAR Association of Alberta.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is Emergency Management BC. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in British Columbia and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the BC Search and Rescue Association.

Manitoba

In Manitoba, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in Saskatchewan and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by Search and Rescue Manitoba.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador. Policing services in Newfoundland and Labrador are shared between the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) in urban areas and the RCMP in rural areas. These police agencies are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue Association.

New Brunswick

In New Brunswick, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in New Brunswick and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the New Brunswick Ground Search and Rescue Association.

Northwest Territories

In the Northwest Territories, the territorial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Northwest Territories Emergency Measures Organization. The RCMP is contracted to provide policing services in the Northwest Territories and are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the territory. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Northwest Territories Search and Rescue Association.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in Nova Scotia and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue Association.

Nunavut

In Nunavut, the territorial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is Nunavut Emergency Management. The RCMP is contracted to provide policing services in Nunavut and are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the territory. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Nunavut Search and Rescue Association.

Ontario

In Ontario, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is Emergency Management Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) provides all provincial policing services in Ontario and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association.

Prince Edward Island

In Prince Edward Island, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Prince Edward Island Emergency Measures Organization. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in Prince Edward Island and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Prince Edward Island Ground Search and Rescue Association.

Quebec

In Quebec, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Ministère de la Sécurité publique. The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) provides all provincial policing services in Quebec and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Association Quebeçoise des Bénévoles en Recherche et Sauvetage.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, the provincial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Saskatchewan Emergency Management Organization. The RCMP is contracted to provide provincial policing services in Saskatchewan and they, or a municipal police force, are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the province. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers.

Yukon

In Yukon, the territorial government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer ground and inland water SAR is the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization. The RCMP is contracted to provide policing services in Yukon and are responsible for responding to ground and inland water SAR incidents in the territory. Volunteer ground search and rescue (GSAR) teams are represented by the Yukon Search and Rescue Association.

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