Search and Rescue
Search and rescue crews coordinate and conduct searches for people in distress, administer emergency medical aid at crash sites and transport injured people to hospital.
Whether it's winching down from a Cormorant rescue helicopter into the stormy Atlantic, braving -32 degree whiteout conditions in the high Arctic or rescuing survivors from a burning plane, highly trained search and rescue crews put their lives on the line every day.
Last year, SAR crews responded to over 8700 calls for help, rescuing thousands of Canadians.
The Air Force shares responsibility for search and rescue in Canada by drawing support from the Canadian Coast Guard and from a vast network of civil and government organizations, volunteers and other agencies.
It begins with a distress call to one of the three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs) staffed by military and Coast Guard personnel or to one of the two Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSCs) staffed by Coast Guard personnel.
Once the JRCC/MRSC has verified that the call is a genuine emergency, the well-practiced machine swings into action. The next stage is swift and decisive, with the JRCC/MRSC tasking the appropriate resources. If it's a maritime emergency, the Canadian Coast Guard and its Auxiliary volunteers are mobilized.
If it's an aeronautical emergency, the Air Force is called into action, as can the many volunteers of the Canadian Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA). Within minutes of an alarm being sounded, the crews are briefed, search areas assigned and the search and rescue teams are dispatched to the scene to find, administer medical attention, and rescue the victims.
International Satellite System
Searches that previously would have required days of effort are now being solved within a few hours with the help of satellites.
Signals sent by emergency beacons on aircraft, marine vessel and handheld devices carried on land are sent to orbiting satellites.
The satellites relay these signals to receiving ground stations which forward the information to the appropriate Mission Control Centre (MCC). They, in-turn, process the information and forward it to the appropriate JRCC for action.
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Canada's search and rescue (SAR) teams operate four primary aircraft:
The Hercules is a long range, high speed Aircraft capable of delivering emergency equipment, supplies, and SAR Technicians to the scene via air drops.
The Buffalo has good mountain flying capabilities, making it ideal for West Coast SAR operations. It can fly in all weather conditions and in areas where short, unprepared strips provide the only take-off and landing surfaces. The Buffalo can easily land in areas as short as a soccer field.
The Cormorant helicopter, a powerful three-engine aircraft, has long-range capabilities for extended searches and a large cargo area, which can carry up to 12 stretchers or a load of 5,000 kg. SAR Techs are often hoisted from the helicopter to pick up patients in remote areas or off ships.
- The Griffon helicopter, equipped with forward-looking infrared radar, is able to seek out aircraft and personnel by the heat they give off, making it an ideal search aircraft. It is also used to provide aero-medical support and casualty evacuation.
The Air Force also relies on other aircraft to assist in search and rescue operations. In rescues at sea, the Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and Sea King helicopters can be called in to provide support.
More than 750 Canadian Forces members are dedicated to its search and rescue (SAR) system.
Throughout their 61-year history, Air Force SAR crews have won countless awards for heroism, including Canada's highest honour, the Cross of Valour.
Ground crew technicians keep the SAR aircraft in top condition, often working in remote locations under extreme environmental conditions.
The aircrew fly the aircraft to the search areas, conducts search patterns and hovers overhead, manoeuvring the aircraft for parachute and hoist operations.
Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs)
Adorned in their bright orange flight suits, the SAR Techs are the most visible members of the crew and are highly trained specialists providing the on-scene medical attention.In the air, SARTechs act as spotters and direct the dropping of equipment and supplies by parachute or hoist. On the ground, they perform mountain rescue operations, organize and lead ground search teams and provide on-site medical care to casualties.
They are trained to operate boats and carry out underwater rescues using scuba gear. They are survival experts under all Canadian climactic and terrain conditions: land, sea, in the Arctic, on mountains and glaciers.
In between disaster calls, they are continually refining and honing their skills in advanced trauma life-support, land and sea survival, rescue techniques from helicopters, parachuting, diving, and mountain climbing and rappelling.
There are about 130 SAR Techs spread across Canada at five major SAR squadrons and three Combat Support squadrons.
Each year, the Search and Rescue (SAR) community conducts several exercises to develop rescue cooperation, test alert and notification systems, and cross-train in rescue procedures and techniques in the event of a large-scale search and rescue operation.
The annual National Search and Rescue exercise (SAREX) is hosted on a rotating basis at one of the SAR Wings and is used to exchange information and experiences gained, answer issues and update the SAR community on changes and updates that have occurred since the last SAREX. In addition, it provides a platform for gathering SAR-related research and data in live exercise scenarios.
The Civilian Air Search And Rescue Association (CASARA) also competes in SAREX.