By Mark Squibb | Vol. 31 No. 52 (March 13 2019)
Avalon MP Ken McDonald, members of Paradise town council, and representatives from the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) were in Paradise Thursday, where McDonald announced over $920,000 in federal funding for the SARVAC across Canada.
But it isn’t exactly new news. The funding, which was included in the federal 2018 budget, is to be doled out over a three-year period.
“Around the clock, they can, and do save lives, and help Canadians have safe and enjoyable outdoor adventures,” the MP said of search and rescue volunteers. “For my part, it’s always a pleasure, and a privilege, to announce federal support to keep people safe.”
The funding will be used to develop and implement a national accreditation and certification program for Ground Search and Rescue volunteers.
“A lot of teams can’t afford to bring in outside trainers, so a lot of teams do their training in house. This accreditation and certification … basically certifies that what they are doing is actually correct, nation wide. And across the country everyone will have the same level of training,” explained Cindy Sheppard, executive director of the SARVAC.
Sheppard couldn’t give an estimate on much of the $920,000 will actually be used in Newfoundland and Labrador, as SARVAC, whose head office is located in Paradise, is a nationwide organization.
Matthew Jones is one of over 9,000 SARVAC volunteers across Canada. He has been a volunteer with Rovers Search and Rescue since 2001, and has helped the police with ongoing investigations and missing persons cases.
“Definitely, helping bring a loved one home to a family is definitely the greatest part of this organization,” he said. “Today’s accreditation accredits those people who are teaching this training to say that ‘Yes, you are certified to teach this anywhere in this country,’ and we can be assured that anyone you teach gets the same training, countrywide. And it puts everybody on the same playing field, that we all have the same expertise to do our job.”
Meanwhile, the Rovers Search and Rescue has been doing some fundraising of its own.
Last June the group began fundraising for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or drone, to assist with the search for lost persons. They received roughly $80,00 from corporate donors, which they used to purchase a DJI Matric 210 RTK UAV, along with some additional equipment and training.
The Rovers are unveiling that drone at a press conference planned for today (Wednesday, March 13).
The drone has two daytime cameras, as well as an infrared camera for nighttime use, and is defended against electrical interference such as transmission lines and cell towers.
“It came down to one search in particular, that we said, ‘You know what, if we had this piece of equipment we could have streamlined this search and found the individual in a more timely fashion,” said Paul French, National Prevention Coordinator with SARVAC.
He explained there are two certified drone pilots within Rovers Search and Rescue, but the RNC has six trained pilots which can be called in if needed.
“So really we have access of up to eight pilots to fly this drone at any given time,” he said.
French said that on average, the drone will probably be used about once or twice a month.