SAR Alberta The overall body for ground search and rescue (GSAR) in Alberta. SAR Alberta sets the standards the GSAR groups have to meet. Has information and links for all Alberta SAR groups.
Calgary Search and Rescue Association (Calsara @ www.calsara.com) Combining effort and skills, to aid in the search and rescue of people in distress. A committed volunteer organization that trains in all aspects of search and rescue to provide assistance to people, other SAR groups, as well as tasking agencies.
Cochrane Search and Rescue (CSAR) ( www.cochranesearchandrescue.org ) Cochrane SAR is a new group just west of Calgary. Many of their members switched from Calgary, Sundre, Didsbury, and even Foothills SAR when CSAR started.
Red Deer Search and Rescue (RDSAR) (www.reddeersar.com ) Located about 130 km north of Calgary, Red Deer SAR was one of the first groups to respond to the Pine Lake tornado.
South East Alberta Search and Rescue (Medicine Hat) (SEASAR) ( www.seasar.ca ) SEASAR covers the area to the east of Foothills SAR’s territory.
Lethbridge Area Search and Rescue Association (LASARA) ( www.lasara.org ) LASARA is a another relatively new group, providing better coverage for an area formerly served by South East Alberta and Pincher Creek SARs.
Alberta Cave Rescue Organisation (ACRO) (www.cancaver.ca/ACRO/ ) Started in 2000, ACRO is still pretty new to the SAR community. Specializing in cave rescue, they are probably the only volunteer “ground” SAR group in Canada whose mandate is province-wide.
Canadian Search Dog Association ( www.canadiansearchdogs.com ) If they want to work with the RCMP, civilian search dogs in Alberta must be certified by the RCMP to the RCMP’s own dog standard.
Emergency Management Alberta (formerly Alberta Disaster Services) ( www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.ca/mahome/ema/index.cfm ) Emergency Management Alberta helps municipalities with emergency preparedness, as well as with coping with an emergency or disaster beyond its own capabilities. In case of a major disaster, (e.g., major earthquake in Vancouver) they could well be FSAR’s tasking agency.
Firebans and area closures In a dry and frequently drought-stricken area like southern Alberta, grass- and forest fires are a year-round hazard. As a result, firebans, trail closures or area closures are not unusual. Check the sites listed below in the “Firebans, etc.” section for details.
Environment Canada weather forecasts ( weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca ) (in English and French) Environment Canada’s website has weather forecasts for all of Canada. The links below will take you directly to some Calgary region forecasts:
1–3 day text forecasts for the southern half of Alberta, including Calgary, Banff, Lethbridge, etc.
3–5 day text forecasts for the southern half of Alberta, including Calgary, Banff, Lethbridge, etc.
Graphical 5-day forecast for Calgary with current conditions.
For more information about weather, see the link in the “Other” section below to Environment Canada’s weather FAQ page.
National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) ( www.nss.gc.ca ) (in English and French) “NSS is a centre for SAR coordination and promotion in Canada. It coordinates central activities for the federal element of search and rescue, [and] within the non-federal jurisdiction, the NSS works directly with provincial and territorial Search and Rescue authorities and police services to develop and standardize the quantity and quality of SAR service available to the provinces and territories.” [Description from their website.]
NSS also publishes the bilingual SARscene magazine, now only in .PDF format.
Glossary of Basic Ground Search and Rescue Terminology (English: www.nss.gc.ca/site/groundSAR/volunteerCriteriaGlossary_e.asp ) (French: www.nss.gc.ca/site/groundSAR/volunteerCriteriaGlossary_f.asp ) The NSS website includes an extensive glossary of ground SAR terms in both English and French.
RCMP Role in Search and Rescue ( http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ccaps-spcca/rs-eng.htm ) (in English and French) The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) is the most likely tasking agency to call on Foothills SAR to search for missing persons. The RCMP is the federal police that also provides provincial and municipal policing in most parts of Canada, and is therefore responsible for overseeing GSAR activities in their area of jurisdiction.
Canadian Forces SAR ( www.canadacom.forces.gc.ca/sar-res/SAR-BG09001-eng.asp ) (in English and French) The Canadian Forces are the primary group for aeronautical SAR (ASAR) activities, and provide the air assets for maritime SAR. They have several dedicated SAR squadrons stationed on the east and west coasts, as well as Trenton, Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba. They also work with, and certify, CASARA groups. See this site for information on the CH-146 Cormorant, the new SAR helicopter that became operational in 2002.
Civil Air Search And Rescue Association (CASARA) ( www.casara.ca ) CASARA is a national network of local groups that work with the Canadian Forces to supply trained volunteer air SAR assets. Member-owned light aircraft and volunteer spotters and navigators supplement Forces aircraft, and the spotters fly on Forces aircraft to supply additional trained personnel. See also CASARA Ontario’s website at www.casaraontario.ca .
Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) ( www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca ) (in English and French) The CCG provides marine SAR in Canadian waters and Canadian SAR responsibility waters.
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) ( www.ccga-gcac.org ) The CCGA provides the CCG with additional volunteer resources, including SAR, education, and patrol duties.
Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) ( www.sarvac.ca ) (in English and French) SARVAC works to benefit all SAR volunteers in Canada.
Directory of Canadian Search and Rescue Organizations , 1997-98 (www.nss.gc.ca/site/sarlinks/index_e.asp ) (in English and French) Parts arewww.nss.gc.ca/site/sarlinks a few years out of date, other entries have been updated, and the directory is now electronic and subject to revision directly by the listed organizations.
British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSAR) ( www.bcsara.ca ) (site added 2005/09/30) A British Columbia group that represents BC’s SAR groups, helping groups with obtaining funding, and educating the public. specializes in technical and night searching.
SAR Info ( www.sarinfo.bc.ca ) This site has lots of SAR-related information, including many links, discussion lists and chat rooms, etc. Unfortunately, the site has quite a few out-of-date and dead links.
NSS’s SAR Links ( www.nss.gc.ca/site/SARLinks/index_e.asp ) (in English and French) Canada’s National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) maintains a page of links to SAR sites in Canada and around the world.
International Search and Rescue Society (ISRS) ( www.isars.org ) An international association whose vision is “improving SAR knowledge worldwide.” Their links page lists many SAR organizations worldwide.
Rescue Coordination Centre Network ( www.rcc-net.org ) A network for RCCs world-wide and “forum for aeronautical and maritime SAR topics.” They also run RCC-L, an e-mail discussion list.
COSPAS-SARSAT ( www.cospas-sarsat.org ) (in English, French, and Russian) The home site for the international search and rescue satellite system. A constellation of low- and high-earth orbit satellites that listen for radio distress signals on 121.5, 243.0, and 406.025 MHz from ELTs, PLBs, and EPIRBs. System allows rapid triangulation to calculate position of beacon to within several kilometres (usually). Founded in 1982 by Canada, USA, France and USSR, now used by many countries.
SAR Info ( www.sarinfo.bc.ca ) This site has many international SAR links. Unfortunately, the site has quite a few out-of-date and dead links.
National Association for Search and Rescue (United States) ( www.nasar.org ) A national association for paid and non-paid SAR, disaster, and emergency medicine professionals.
Civil Air Patrol (United States) ( www.gocivilairpatrol.com ) Approximately equivalent to Canada’s CASARA.
United States Coast Guard (USCG) ( www.uscg.mil ) The branch of the US military that is responsible for maritime patrol and SAR.
“Don’t tempt fate when she has already indicated that she is in a bad mood.”
The wilderness is an unforgiving place, so being prepared is the key. Preparation can include hiring a guide, taking a wilderness first aid course, checking weather or avalanche forecasts, or taking precautions against infection. Here are a few relevant sites, especially Canadian ones. If you are visiting the Calgary area, and would like to experience the wonders of the Rockies safely, some of these companies can take care of all the arrangements.
Association of Canadian Mountain Guides ( www.acmg.ca ) The ACMG certifies mountain, ski, hiking, and other guides in Canada. You can consult their site to find the name of a guide in the area you are interested in, or to check on the certification of a guide.
Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) ( www.avalanche.ca ) Avalanches are one of the main causes of death in winter mountain recreation. This site will help you avoid becoming a statistic. The CAA represents the avalanche community in Canada by promoting scientific and technical standards. They have the current avalanche danger ratings for the back country areas of British Columbia and Alberta. Check and heed their warnings when considering heading into the hills.
Kananaskis Country Backcountry Avalanche Information ( www.cd.gov.ab.ca/enjoying_alberta/parks/featured/kananaskis/avalanche.html ) (address revised 2005/10/06) K-Country is a popular recreation area next to Banff National Park. Part of Foothills SAR’s primary response area, and covering thousands of square kilometres of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, this rugged terrain is heavily forested. Althought it doesn’t have the curent risk levels, the site does have lots of good information.
Kananaskis Country Trails Report ( www.cd.gov.ab.ca/enjoying_alberta/parks/featured/kananaskis/avalanche.html ) (site added 2005/10/06) The trails report is updated weekly, or as conditions warrant. Also has lots of other good information, including current avalanche, weather and road conditions.
Rocky Mountain Adventure Medicine ( www.adventuremed.ca ) RMAM provides medical and outdoor preparedness instruction for people who will be spending time in a non-urban setting.
St. John Ambulance (www.sja.ca/Alberta/Pages/default.aspx ) St. John Ambulance offers first aid courses, as well as first aid kits, to the general public. Their courses, held regularly at most St. John locations across the country including Calgary, focus on urban and workplace first aid more than backcountry.
Emergency Response Tools Corp. ( www.kitskitskits.com ) Emergency Response Tools sells an excellent first aid kit that gives anyone a better chance of helping someone. Eight years in development, the football-sized kits weigh about 1.5 kg, are rugged, designed to be functional from -40? to +50? C, and each compartment is labelled. These are now Foothills SAR’s standard first aid kits.
In late 2004 or early 2005, it expects to have an EMT-level kit available as well.
September 2005: Plans now call for smaller kit, not a larger one. It is currently at the prototype stage. Stay tuned!
X-Zibit A ( www.xzibita.com ) The company’s slogan is “Your first defence against the elements.” Their specialty is technical clothing for demanding users in extreme conditions, and they prove that to be the case with FSAR’s new jackets, custom designed and manufactured by them for FSAR. Waterproof, breathable, and with many pockets and reflective stripes, these very functional jackets provide FSAR members with protection from the elements, clear identity, and visible safety.
Living with cougars ( LivingWithCougars.pdf ) (1.3 MB Adobe Acrobat .PDF file) (link fixed 2005/08/22) A brochure from the Alberta government about cougars; what they look like, where they live, and what to do if you encounter one.
Safety guide to cougars ( wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/wld/pub/cougsf.htm ) (link fixed 2005/08/22) From the British Columbia government, information about cougars. Similar to the brochure mentioned above.
Living with fish and wildlife ( www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/fw/living/ ) (link fixed 2005/08/22) From the Alberta government’s Sustainable Resource Development department, the site has pages about cougars, bears and other wildlife, as well as information about diseases.
Bears in Alberta ( www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/fw/bears/ ) (link fixed 2005/08/22) Also from Sustainable Resource Development, this site has many pages about bears in Alberta.
While out in the wilderness, you can catch diseases and infections many people think of as “city” or “farm” problems. These include Giardia, Cryptosporidium, West Nile, Norwalk, Hanta, E. coli, and many other infectious agents. And hypo- or hyperthermia is a risk any time of year.
Some Potential Microbiological Hazards for Field Workers ( www.biology.ualberta.ca/facilities/safety/index.php?Page=700 ) From the University of Alberta, this page gives an overview of what’s out there, transmission methods, and precautions.
Kingston General Hospital & Queen’s University ( www.path.queensu.ca/ic/ ) This Infection Control Service site from Queen’s University’s pathology department and KGH has information on several different infectious agents, including the Norwalk, West Nile, and Ebola viruses, E. coli, influenza, and foot & mouth disease. Especially check the “What’s hot” page.
Health Canada ( www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/msds-ftss/msds112e.html ) (address revised 2005/08/22) This Material Safety Data Sheet gives details of how the Norwalk virus acts, and the precautions to take.
West Nile Virus Surveillance Information ( www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/wnv-vwn/ ) (in English and French) (address revised 2005/08/22) Another site from Health Canada, this one has has lots of information on the West Nile virus.
Alberta Health & Wellness — West Nile Virus ( www.fightthebite.info ) This site from the Alberta government gives information specific to Alberta, and includes an excellent FAQ.
Giariasis ( www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000288.htm ) From the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s medical encyclopedia, details on Giardia lamblia, the protozoa that causes giardiasis, the official name of giardia.
Hypothermia and Dr. Giesbrecht ( www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/physed/research/people/giesbrecht.shtml ) Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht of the University of Manitoba is a world-renowned expert on hypothermia who “studies human responses to exercise/work in extreme environments. He has conducted hundreds of cold water immersion studies that have provided valuable information about cold stress physiology and pre-hospital care for human hypothermia.”
His site includes articles and videos on staying warm and safe in the outdoors.
Hypothermia (woodsman’s disease) and Hyperthermia (heat stress) ( www.canadiancanine.com/dan/ ) In August 2003 while camping in British Columbia, Randy Chartrand became disoriented from hypothermia, evaded his would-be rescuers, and died. This site, written by his brother Dan, tells a cautionary tale and explains the signs and symptoms of hypothermia as well as hyperthermia. Includes audio clip of Dan’s interview on CBC Radio’s “The Current” on 03 September 2003.
In a dry and frequently drought-stricken area like southern Alberta, grass- and forest fires are a year-round hazard. As a result, firebans, trail closures or area closures are not unusual. Check these provincial government sites for current information on national parks, provincial parks and recreation areas, as well as municipal, county and municipal district firebans and area closures.
In 2003 much of southwestern Alberta (roughly everything south and west of Rocky Mountain House) was under a fireban from late July until September, and area closures were not unusual.
2004 was forecast to be a very dry summer. As it turned out, B.C. was very dry; southern Alberta had plenty of hail, rain, thunderstorms, and tornados; and northern Alberta and most of the Yukon had severe forest fires.
The summer of 2005 wasn’t too bad for wildfires in Alberta. However, June was very wet, with more rainfall that month than usually falls all year. Many areas flooded, and several people died when they tried to cross swollen streams and rivers.
Also check Environment Canada’s website for the latest weather information, forecasts, watches and warnings (links above in the “Alberta” section). Firebans and area closures from Alberta Forest Protection ( alberta.firebans.com or albertafirebans.ca ) (second address added 2005/09/18) Quickly find out what areas in Alberta are affected by fires.
Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development wildfires page ( www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/wildfires/fpd/ ) Lots of information about Alberta and fires.
Provincial Emergency Program (British Columbia) ( www.pep.bc.ca/operations/operations.html) Includes the current forest fire dangers and related activities in British Columbia.
Canadian Forest Service ( fire.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca) (in English and French) This federal government site has lots of information, some very detailed and technical, on the forest fire dangers, and how the ratings are calculated. Click on “current conditions”, then pick “Fire Danger” to see a national map of the danger levels. Includes historical data and maps going back to 1998.
Forest Fire Watch from The Weather Network ( www.theweathernetwork.com/features/firewatch/fd.htm) Similar to the Canadian Forest Service, but less technical, and only current information.
FireSmart ( www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/wildfires/fpd/firesmart.cfm If you live in a rural or forested area, there are things you can do to reduce the risk that wildfires will destroy your home. The FireSmart programme aims to tell you how. Note: this isn’t just an Alberta programme, use a search engine or phone your local forest protection office to find out if there are programmes in your area.
Our Missing Children / Nos enfants disparus ( www.ourmissingchildren.ca ) (in English and French) Canada’s national clearinghouse for missing children. First set up in 1986, it is run by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in collaboration with several other federal government departments, including customs, citizenship and immigration, and foreign affairs. The unit makes information on missing Canadian children available world-wide to other police agencies. The website is in English and French.
Child Find Canada ( www.childfind.ca ) (in English and French) Each year, about 60,000 Canadian children go missing, either by running away, parental abduction, or criminal activity. Child Find Canada is dedicated to locating and helping these missing children. They also offer programmes to educate parents, children, and professionals.
Missing Children Society of Canada ( www.mcsc.ca ) This Calgary-based organization has lots of information on how to help children avoid going missing, as well as assisting police and parents in searching for missing children.
Child CyberSearch Canada ( www.childcybersearch.com ) Another organization dedicated to locating and helping missing children.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (United States) ( www.missingkids.com/html/portal.html ) An American organization dedicated to locating and helping missing children.
Hug a Tree Program ( www.tbt.com/hugatree/ ) A programme that teaches children how to avoid becoming lost, and what to do if it happens anyway. Similar to the “Lost in the Woods” programme. FSAR teaches both programmes.
Foothills Search and Rescue is in the process of replacing their existing command post. The following sites give some idea of what to think of, or what other groups have done. Guidelines for the design and construction of mobile command posts (Canada) ( www.epc-pcc.gc.ca/research/resactivites/CI/1991-D011A_e.asp ) (in English and French) Written in 1991, this technical report from Emergency Preparedness Canada (EPC) gives lots on recommendations on what to consider when designing a command post. Based on inspection of in-service vehicles and interviews with their users. (400 KB .pdf file from EPC website.) (On the EPC site it regulary moves, so you might have to hunt for it, so it is also available here on the FSAR website.)
North Shore Rescue ( www.northshorerescue.com ) Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, NSR responds to about 80 callouts per year. They have several vehicles, each for a different specific purpose.
San Diego County RACES Communications Vehicle ( www.races.sandiego.ca.gov/races/rcv/ ) This Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service’s vehicle is intended as a stand-alone emergency operations centre. Biased towards communications rather than search and rescue.
Wilkes-Barre Emergency Mangement Mobile Command Post ( www.arrl.org/news/stories/2004/03/03/101/?nc=1 ) Serving 18 municipalities in north-eastern Pennsylvania, this mobile communications command post was created from a GMC Suburban. Bristling with 15 antennas and radios for fire, police, EMS, EMA, and ham frequencies, the command post facilitates communications with almost any agency in the region, and is designed to respond to any kind of emergency.
Federal Emergency Mangement Agency Mobile Command Post ( www.fema.gov/rrr/merspic.shtm ) Serving the American federal government, this vehicle is obviously designed for the overall management of an event, rather than getting involved in specific activities.
Weather FAQ from Environment Canada ( weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/mainmenu/faq_e.html ) Answers many frequently asked questions (FAQ) about weather and weather forecasting, including wind chill, humidex and UV indexes. Includes instructions for getting weather forecasts e-mailed to you.
Roper’s Knot Page: knotting, bends and hitches ( www.realknots.com ) This site links to dozens of websites that feature ropes and knots. The links are separated into categories, such as fishing, caving, etc.
Caving knots ( www-sop.inria.fr/agos-sophia/sis/Techniques/knots.html ) Although the site is specific to caving, its knots page shows almost all the knots that the FSAR rope team uses. The diagrams on how to tie them are quite clear and helpful.
Holidays and Anniversaries ( www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/jfa-ha/index_e.cfm ) (in English and French) When are Canadian holidays and anniversaries, and how is it decided on what date it will be celebrated? Get the official answers to these and more questions from the Canadian Heritage website. Both national and provincial dates are given.
The Degree Confluence Project ( www.confluence.org ) The goal of this project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world and take pictures there. The photos and pictures will then be posted here. A challenge for navigators and geographers.
Geocaching — The official global GPS cache hunt site ( www.geocaching.org ) Combining a treasure hunt with practicing GPS navigation skills, geocaching is a fun way to spend time.
GeoAnalytic ( www.geoanalytic.com ) November 2003 GeoAnalytic donated map- and satellite data sets for use in the FSAR command post. The data, compatible with the OziExplorer software we use, includes 1:250,000 and 1:50,000 topographic maps and visible-light and near-infrared satellite imagery of southern Alberta and southwest B.C.; all geo-rectified to the NAD27 datum. Foothills Search and Rescue would like to express its appreciation for GeoAnalytic’s generosity. If your organization needs “innovative mapping solutions” for anywhere on Earch, GeoAnalytic can probably help you.
Industry Canada Radio Information Circulars ( strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/internet/insmt-gst.nsf/vwGeneratedInterE/h_sf06073e.html ) (in English and French) Industry Canada is the Canadian government body that issues amateur, aeronautical and marine radio licences. This part of the IC site has the “RIC”s that tell you what you need to know to get a licence. Scroll down to the Radiocommunication Information Circulars section to download the .pdf files.