Improvements in store for Canadian SAR system
At a press conference on Thursday, May 2, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Associate Minister of National Defence Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay announced six major initiatives designed to improve Canada’s national search and rescue (SAR) system.
Notable among the initiatives is a quadrennial review — led by the Minister of National Defence with the support of the National Search and Rescue Secretariat — designed to provide a comprehensive perspective of search and rescue in Canada. According to MacKay, the first of these reviews is expected to commence “within months,” which will place the second SAR review in 2017. MacKay said the Department of Defence will work with the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, Parks Canada, Public Safety Canada and other departments, as well as with provincial/territorial governments and search and rescue volunteers, “to systematically assess the evolving needs of search and rescue and how we can work together to ensure these needs are met.”
The initiatives also include policy changes that will encourage SAR squadrons to optimize their readiness postures in response to seasonal shifts in demand, and which will require them to proactively inform Joint Rescue Coordination Centres of changes in their equipment status. MacKay and Findlay also announced $16.2 million for the development of Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) and Low Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (LEOSAR) satellite projects to improve real-time situational awareness and improved vessel tracking; a revamped and improved beacon registration and information website for Canadians; and the completion of the renovated Joint Resource Coordination Centre in Halifax, reflecting $2 million in upgrades to modernize technical infrastructure and consolidate efforts in maritime search and rescue coordination.
The announcements come shortly after the Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, released a report concluding that “significant improvements are needed” if the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard “are to continue to adequately respond and provide the necessary personnel, equipment, and information systems to deliver SAR activities effectively.” Deficiencies noted in the report included personnel shortages and training challenges; ageing SAR airplanes; and an inadequate information system used to manage SAR cases.
In his Thursday press conference, MacKay said that his announcements had “been in the pipeline for seven months” and were not a direct response to the Auditor General’s report. “The announcement is a direct response to the needs we see,” he told reporters who challenged him on the point. He described SAR as “a no-fail system” and noted that the first quadrennial SAR review could lead to the allocation of additional resources for Canada’s SAR system.
Source: by Vertical Staff News – 3 May 2013
Photo: The Canadian Coast Guard CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue Medium Helicopter (Photo by en.academic.ru)