In the early 1990s, the only ground SAR group in Alberta was in Rocky Mountain House. Dave Hanna of Alberta Parks and Recreation knew that Parks personnel were trained in search and rescue, but didn’t have the manpower to mount an effective search in the millions of hectares of forest in the Foothills region. What was needed was a group of trained volunteers.
So in March 1993 Foothills Search and Rescue was formed. The eight founding members elected Dave Hanna, Carl Verge (Turner Valley RCMP) and Dave Watt (Foothills Regional EMS) as their officers.
The fundamental SAR training was taught by the founding officers. There were no standards in place at that time, but the syllabus they set exceeded those that SAR Alberta would later promulgate.
Foothills SAR had no money whatsoever. The group relied on a small membership fee for postage, etc. and the members bought all their own equipment. The RCMP came to FSAR’s assistance with radios, GPSs, and PIEPS for avalanche work. Members all worked at getting donations and selling raffle tickets to help with training costs.
With some great leadership, and big hearts, our group has withstood the test of time, and has grown to approximately 75 trained members. We have kept our standards high and take pride in our work.
Foothills SAR is based in the town of Turner Valley, about a 45 minute drive south of Calgary. Foothills’s service area is bounded on the north by Calgary and Cochrane SAR, on the south by Pincher Creek SAR, to the south-east by Lethbridge Area SAR, and to the east by Medicine Hat’s South East Alberta SAR. To the west of Turner Valley, FSAR often assists the Provincial Public Safety and Conservation officers with the Search portion of SAR in the Alberta Forest Reserves and Provincial Parks.
We have performed search and rescue missions outside this area (for the Pine Lake Tornado, for example), but usually this is because the mission is so large that local SAR teams cannot handle it alone. We all work together to save lives.
We are committed to increasing public awareness of search and rescue and to providing safety and prevention programs. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, teachers, paramedics, students, technicians, mechanics, police officers, business people, etc. Besides the mandatory training in SAR fundamentals, first aid and CPR, many members have specialized skills in navigation and map reading, wilderness first aid, radio communications, helicopter landing zone preparation, tracking, swiftwater or rope rescue. This provides communities with a capable and experienced volunteer team to assist in search, rescue, disaster relief and evacuation situations.
Foothills Search and Rescue’s members are ready to respond to an emergency at a moment’s notice, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.