Last spring, a search-and-rescue effort that would have normally taken two days only took half a day thanks to cooperation between Inuvik’s search and rescue teams, according to Alex Klapatiuk, a member of Inuvik Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR), the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA).

A map showing CASARA’s coverage areas across Canada.
Photo courtesy of David Taylor

Klapatiuk said cooperation can make all the difference in some cases.

“In that gentleman’s case last spring, it wouldn’t have been fatal, but in other cases, that cooperation right off the bat is extremely important,” said Klapatiuk. “The communication that we had with CASARA made all the difference in how fast we were able to find him.”

Klapatiuk said  the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), the RCMP, Parks Canada, GSAR, and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary will now be cooperating more closely on search-and-rescue missions.

The new spirit of cooperation and understanding was a highlight of the discussion at CASARA’s annual general meeting June 2.

“I think it’s going to bode well for the search-and-rescue community in Inuvik,” he said. “In the past, organizations have worked together, but there’s much more focused cooperation happening now.”

Paul MacDonald, member of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, said although there has always been cooperation between search and rescue organizations, now that they have a greater awareness of each others’ capacities and policies, they can work together more effectively.

“The fact that we’ve talked and they understand exactly how we operate and how we’re tasked and who we report to, and how they communicate is paramount in facilitating the rescue,” said MacDonald. “There has always been underlying cooperation, but there were a lot of gaps that were left open and we didn’t understand exactly how they worked.

“So now that we understand how we all integrate together, and we’ve solidified the areas where there were roadblocks with talking it out and discussing how we operate and how we could modify certain aspects to better mesh with each other.”

He hopes many communication difficulties will be smoothed out with the renewed sense of teamwork.

“It’s not that we’ve never gotten along, but there was a lot of ‘Oh, this is my mission, this is your mission,’ whereas now it’s our mission, we work as a team,” he said. “We’ve done searches in the past where we had difficulty trying to communicate with the aircraft, or we didn’t even know the aircraft had been dispatched, so now, in the spirit of cooperation, we’ll know when they’ve been dispatched so we can keep an eye out for them and communicate with them and let them know what we’ve seen.”

MacDonald said no major issues have been brought forward so far in cooperation efforts, but this summer a joint search-and-rescue exercise will be held between all local search-and-rescue groups in order to iron out any issues that may arise.

“With the real rescues there were no issues, but with training you can add in more variables where you can start seeing where there might be problems that need fixing,” he said.

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