News release

Ground Search and Rescue, Working Together to Save Lives, Eastern

EMERGENCY MEASURES ORGANIZATION--Ground Search and Rescue, Working Together To Save Lives, Eastern


Nova Scotia is a province with rolling hills, vast woodlands and rugged coastlines. These characteristics add to the beauty of the province, but sometimes they also add to the potential for danger. However, because of organizations such as Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR), Nova Scotians can be assured that highly trained volunteers are prepared to assist when danger occurs.

"Volunteers are the cornerstone of ground search and rescue," said Mike Lester, executive director of Nova Scotia's Emergency Measures Organization. "Nova Scotia is very fortunate to have such skilled and dedicated volunteers who will make themselves available at a moment's notice."

The need for a formally mandated GSAR program became apparent in the late 1960s after the tragic loss of a child and a volunteer ground searcher in Cape Breton. Since then, the program has grown and provides ground search and rescue coverage throughout the province.

Nova Scotia's GSAR program consists of 24 teams, made up of 1,650 highly-trained ground search and rescue workers. They are all volunteers who work tirelessly performing ground searches for lost persons. The GSAR program provides a ready pool of volunteers with a command structure and communications strategy that can be applied to a broad range of emergencies.

GSAR is run in partnership with the RCMP with support from the Emergency Measures Organization. Recognized internationally as a leader in the field, Nova Scotia's GSAR program has a provincial association which allows co-operation among the teams, the RCMP and EMO.

Over the years, GSAR program participants have delivered a preventive ground search and rescue program to more than 50,000 young Nova Scotians. Through research and training, Nova Scotia GSAR teams are continuously examining new ways to ensure the successful rescue of those whose lives are in danger.

On Sept. 3, 1998, GSAR teams undertook the largest mutual aid search operation in Nova Scotia's history. Within minutes of the crash of Swissair Flight 111, GSAR volunteers from across Nova Scotia responded under the direction of the RCMP to perform 48,000 hours of ground search operations over a two-month period.

"Search and rescue can be a dangerous business," said Mr. Lester. "Those who choose to work as rescuers accept the risks. They are confident that their training, expertise and teamwork will see them safely through difficult situations."

Nova Scotia's GSAR provides support across the province, region and in other parts of the world. They respond to emergencies of all proportions.

On the evening of Nov. 27, 1996, volunteers with the Cape Breton GSAR began searching for a 14-year-old boy who became separated from his father and was missing in the woods of Eskasoni. In rain, snow and below freezing temperatures, more than 20 search members and 36 volunteers searched throughout the night. More than 35 centimetres of snow had fallen by daylight making roads impassable.

"Weather conditions made it virtually impossible for searchers to do their job. Three of our searchers suffered hypothermia that night," said Eric Langley of the Cape Breton GSAR. "The following morning, additional search teams were called in from Cheticamp, Inverness and the Strait area to relieve those volunteers who had worked tirelessly throughout the night."

Before additional search crews arrived, the 14-year-old boy was found and taken to hospital. He was located by a military helicopter called to assist in the search.

"There is nothing sweeter than the joy of telling a parent you have found their missing child," said Mr. Langley. "It was the best early Christmas present I could have asked for."

The Emergency Measures Organization and Nova Scotia GSAR emphasize the need to prepare for emergencies. Emergency Preparedness Week takes place May 4-10 with participation from every province and territory. This year's theme is Prepare Now! Learn How!

For more information, visit the Emergency Measures Organization Web site at www.gov.ns.ca/emo/ .

-30-

Contact:

Mike Lester
Emergency Measures Organization 902-424-5620 E-mail:
kjd            April 28, 2003      1:59 P.M.