Southeast Saskatchewan will soon have its own group of trained volunteers being able to join first responders for search and rescue operations.
Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers (SARSAV) approved the establishment of the Southeast Saskatchewan Search and Rescue (SESKSAR) chapter during its annual general meeting, which took place on March 8.
Representatives of the southeast presented their letter of intent and the results of January meetings, which took place in Estevan, Carnduff, Carlyle and Weyburn and attracted a great number of people willing to become volunteers with SARSAV. There were no second thoughts about the SESKSAR chapter.
“They voted us in unanimously,” said Katia Bigney, Estevan Police Service special constable, who was the initiator of the establishment of local search and rescue volunteer group.
Started in 2019, SESKSAR became the 19th chapter of SARSAV.
Now, Bigney will proceed with registering the SESKSAR as a non-profit organization, getting a bank account and a post office box. And shortly after that, the first chapter meetings will be scheduled.
“Our first chapter meetings be most likely at Estevan, Carlyle, Carnduff and Weyburn, similar to first meetings,” said Bigney.
Meetings are supposed to take place at the end of March or beginning of April. Those who signed up to become a volunteer, will receive email notifications as soon as all official steps are finished. Southeast Lifestyles and Estevan Mercury will also follow the progress and announce the dates of meetings as soon as they are scheduled.
All people willing to join the chapter, undergo the needed training and participate in future search and rescue operations will need to bring their criminal record checks that include the vulnerable sector check, along with a $25 membership fee (cash or cheque) and filled application forms to the first chapter meetings.
“It’s extremely important to bring your documents with you, and those individuals who successfully bring their documents will be the ones who will go forward first into the training because we need one before the other,” Bigney noted.
The training will begin after the first chapter meetings. People attending the meetings will participate in the decision on training dates, to make a 40-hour initial ground search training course work the best for those involved with SESKSAR.
So far, it expected to take two weekends. One instructor will work with seven to nine students. The locations for the initial training will also be determined after the meetings depending on the level of interest.
Besides, those present at the meetings will participate in the establishment of different committees needed for the SESKSAR to operate effectively.
“We will be having subcommittees of several different groups of importance. And we want people to volunteer for those. Everything from training groups to gaining sponsorships, to equipment… There is a lot of different committees that we need people to volunteer for,” said Bigney.
More training will be coming down the road until all volunteers will gain the necessary knowledge and skills. Moreover, in the future different additional courses will be coming up depending on particular interests and needs. Yet, the further plans will become possible only after the first meetings, which require everybody involved attending.
The SARSAV general meeting brought together volunteers from most of Saskatchewan chapters. The meeting was followed by multi-jurisdictional two-day training.
The networking group of volunteers and professionals conducted a search and rescue exercise (SARex) at White City. The large-scale ground search involved over 70 participants.
All of the Department of Public Safety’s equipment was brought over from Prince Albert to be utilized during the search. Bigney noted that some pieces of equipment used there she’s never seen before.
“All-terrain vehicles, instant command centre, their fire truck that they had. All that equipment was used. And they brought in the Canadian search and rescue group that trains canines, they had their dogs there,” Bigney said.
Volunteers from almost every chapter were working along with the RCMP, the Canadian Search Dog Association and fire departments trying to resolve a simulated missing person case.
The virtual search subject was a man named John Tracker. His description was provided and groups proceeded with the search, paying attention to details and clues. Everything was arranged as if it was a real situation except for not having a real person missing.
Bigney noted that if everything goes perfect with the SESKSAR, chapter 19 volunteers should be able to participate in a similar exercise in 2020.
“We will have a multi-jurisdictional project within our chapter one day,” she said.