Introduction to Our Skills
SAR operations within British Columbia fall into three basic categories: Air SAR, Marine SAR, and Ground and Inland Waters SAR (aka GSAR). North Peace Search & Rescue functions under the Ground and Inland Waters division. We provide the skill sets found on this page to Fort St. John and the Peace region, but also provide mutual assistance to other teams in region or province that need specialized skills or have tasks that require a large numbers of skilled searchers.
Specialized SAR Skills
Technical Rope Rescue
Technical rope rescue is a subset of technical rescue that involves the use of static kernmantle ropes, natural or engineered anchor points, belay/rappel devices and pulleys to reach a subject and safely recover them.
NPSAR meets to practice rope rescue two times a month.
Swiftwater rescue is a subset of technical rescue dealing in whitewater river conditions.
All search and rescue personnel working near water are required to hold at minimum a swiftwater operations ticket and crews working in the water need technician level.
During the spring and periods of heavy rain, waterways can become quite hazardous in the Peace. There is no easy way to overcome the power of rushing water. Rescue teams may use equipment such as throw bags, rope systems or boats to safety access and retrieve a subject.
Avalanche rescue skills and recovery. Involves locating and extracting subjects who have been buried in avalanches.
Unless SAR members are onsite when a burial occurs, most SAR team responses to avalanched areas are to assist with body recoveries. Avalanche safety must be practiced by those who are recreating in the backcountry in order for a timely group rescue be made. If you're out in avalanche terrain, make sure you have the minimum avalanche safety training (AST1) and insist your partners do too! Remember to review and practice with your group. They are your lifeline!
Most members of NPSAR are trained in AST1 and our team now has two current CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1 trained members who are used to complete hazard assessments and provide training to our team. These individuals assist CAA Operations Level 2 members in completing avalanche tasks or body recoveries.
Emphasis on self rescue. Training in techniques and equipment for rescuing others.
Tracking is observation, stalking and following of a trail or sign. Unlike the form of tracking employed in hunting, tracking within SAR tends to focus on the tracking of people. A trail is made up of a series of sign which is laid on the ground or in the vegetation.
CDFL (Class D Fixed Line) AKA HETS (Helicopter External Transport System)
Helicopter long line rescue systems can offer rapid rescue response and reduced risk exposure over traditional land based techniques in remote and/or high angle terrain.
CDFL rescue techniques allows subjects to be extracted from locations where helicopter landing is not possible (dense trees, cliffs). Rescue teams can connect themselves and a subject to a helicopter long line and are extracted from the restricted space and brought to a clear area where the subject can be moved into the helicopter and flown to hospital or placed in a vehicle for medical transport.
Operations require a trained CDFL helicopter pilot and rescue team.
Standardized SAR Skills
Standardized methods of search initiation, progression and termination allow for faster and more accurate searching.
Map and Compass
The ability to read a map and use a compass effectively is an essential skill for all members of the SAR team. GPS technology is standard equipment in SAR, but if it fails members must be able to navigate manually.
SAR members are not prepared to participate in a wilderness search unless they are able to cope with at least some of the situations facing a missing person.
Searchers are always prepared to stay in the wilderness for 24 hours or more should they become lost, injured or otherwise stranded due to weather conditions. Practical knowledge of survival skills is essential for all SAR members.
Communication is critical to all SAR operations. All members must be familiar with protocols, operation and technical details of communication equipment they are using.
Helicopters are used in SAR operations for two main tasks: to move crews and equipment to the search area and to evacuate injured subjects.
Even though they are a valuable resource they do have some disadvantages. Disadvantages include cost, physical limitations (i.e. payload capacity), inability to function in bad weather or at night, and difficulty communicating with ground teams.
SAR members are trained to recognize potential avalanche areas and stay clear of them. Work in avalanche areas is only done with members who have minimum training of AST1 or EMRG-1750/SAR150 with a supervising CAA Level 2.
Many subjects require evacuation – that is, they cannot or should not walk out on their own. Stretcher transportation is often required either manually or in combination with mechanized transport. Team members with Transportation Endorsement assist the lead Medic to safely package the subject for extraction.
NPSAR can also be called upon to assist local and regional governments during civil emergencies. Evacuations, notifications, road blocks, operational assistance, etc.
In 2014 (Hudson's Hope) and 2016 (Mile 73) NPSAR was called upon by RCMP and the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) to assist with delivery of evacuation notices to residents in forest fire evacuation zones.
The responsibilities of a SAR member include the ability to perform basic rope management functions. This includes tying of rescue knots involved in a ground-based evacuation and setup/management of a basic rope system.
This skill qualifies the SAR member to aid or assist in stretcher carries through uneven terrain under the supervision of a certified Ground Search Team Leader. It does not qualify the SAR member to participate in technical rope rescues.
Occupational First Aid Level I is a basic requirement for all SAR members. Members are also trained in Transportation Endorsement for packaging subjects in stretchers for transport. Some members have advanced medical training, such as, Wilderness First Aid (WFA), Occupational First Aid Level 3 (OFA3), Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) or Primary Care Paramedic (PCP).