News release

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

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


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. 26, 2002, GSAR searchers were called out to search for a missing eight-year-old boy who had wandered away from home. More than 25 members of the Lunenburg GSAR and volunteers from the local area were involved in the search. GSAR teams from the Region of Queens Municipality, Lunenburg and Annapolis counties as well as helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and two RCMP search dogs were on hand to assist in the search.

"We were able to pull together a lot of resources in a short amount of time," said Sherry Veinot, search director, Lunenburg County GSAR. "It is truly amazing to see a community pull together in time of need."

Early the next morning, the young boy was found near his home. To Mrs. Veinot, this success story will be one of the most memorable searches she has participated in.

"There is nothing more beautiful than the reunion of a mother and her child," said Mrs. Veinot. "There was not a dry eye in the room."

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/ .

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Contact:

Mike Lester
Emergency Measures Organization 902-424-5620 E-mail:
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