12 February 2012

Strengthening Search and Rescue, revisited #nlpoli

A couple of years ago, in the aftermath of Cougar 491, SRBP made some suggestions about how to improve search and rescue services on the east coast of Canada.

The recent tragedy in Makkovik had nothing to do with the Canadian Forces search and rescue service.  There’s been a huge public outcry aimed at Ottawa, egged on by politicians from all political parties who have misled people.  The Premier and the municipal affairs minister are just two of those politicians, even though they know or ought to know the rights of who was responsible for what.

The fact is that the ground search and rescue in Makkovik was all provincial.

Some of the ideas from that older post still apply, even if they likely wouldn;t have made a difference in Makkovik. If a major disaster occurred – like say an airliner crash – all the SAR and emergency response would have to come from the south, by air.  It’s a long way from Greenwood, Nova Scotia to Goose Bay and longer yet again to get up around Nain.

Some of those suggestions for improvements in the federal side still stand.  But what about the province?  Well, that’s where the people responsible could do a lot more than they have been.  The ground search and rescue system actually works quite well, despite the neglect or under-funding.  It largely works because of the huge number of volunteers, not because of the great attention paid to it by the political types.  Sure they are the first ones to claim credit but they are usually the last ones to do anything beneficial. 

So for starters let’s change that.  If Kathy Dunderdale really wants to do something in response to the tragedy in Makkovik, then here are some simple ideas. She should clean up her own act before she points fingers at anyone else.

Here’s the SRBP list for starters:

  • The provincial government should create a system of volunteer SAR teams in all parts of the province. Right now it’s all volunteers who, like Rovers – have to ask for public donations to buy equipment and keep the lights on.  The provincial government should kick in some dedicated cash for ground search and rescue.
  • The provincial government should beef up training support to these groups. 
  • The provincial government should build and maintain GSAR operations centres, staffed by a cadre of Fire and Emergency Services personnel who keep the flashlights and radios charged up and ready to go.


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