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
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
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
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
"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!
For more information, visit the Emergency Measures Organization
Web site at www.gov.ns.ca/emo/
Contact: Mike Lester
Emergency Measures Organization
kjd April 28, 2003 1:59 P.M.