When a person or a group of people are lost, in distress or facing imminent danger, search and rescue operations are summoned to tend to the crisis situation. There are multiple components to the basic search and rescue field and sub-fields vary by the type of environment. They include air/sea rescue above water, ground searches, urban rescues, mountain rescues and combat search and rescues. Here’s a quick overview.
Emergencies that Require Search and Rescue Efforts
The most common instances that require the assistance of search and rescue teams are shipwrecks, mountain expeditions, and crashed airplanes. Mountain rescues are required more often that most assume. Mountain rescue teams typically search difficult rugged mountainous terrain for injured mountain climbers or those who have lost their way.
Ground search and rescues are much more common. These involve the search for individuals who are either in distress or lost on land or small bodies of water like rivers and canals. Ground rescuers are frequently used in wilderness zones but they’re sometimes also used in urban spaces to locate mentally ill people, autistic people and those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Many ground teams use search and rescue dogs to assist their efforts.
Air-sea rescue operations utilize airplanes, helicopters and float planes to scour vast areas for survivors of downed aircraft and distressed sea vessels.
Combat search and rescue teams operate during times of war and attempt to locate military men and downed aircraft within or close to combat zones.
Search and Rescue Operations in Canada
In Canada, the overarching body that broadly coordinates search and rescue efforts is the Department of National Defense. Actual search and rescue efforts are performed by the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard. These two organizations work hand-in-hand with search and rescue personnel across municipalities and a slew of private organizations. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centres are responsible for the organization of operations and are staffed by coordinators 24 hours a day. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for conducting search and rescue operations that occur on the water. Canada’s Royal Mounted Police handle ground search and rescue efforts in tandem with other policemen. These efforts are typically organized by district boundaries and oversight is handled through provincial coordinating bodies.
Certain Canadian municipalities have their own search and rescue operations. Some of these include the Toronto Police Service that uses water-based vessels on Lake Ontario, the York Regional Police’s marine unit that operates on Lake Simcoe and the Vancouver Police Department that operates marine craft on the water that surrounds the city. Regular Canadian citizens are also proud to participate in numerous volunteer search and rescue groups across the country. These include groups like the Canada Task Force 2 in Alberta, the Quebec Secours, and the North Shore Rescue group in British Columbia.
Search and Rescue Operations in the United States
In the United States, the majority of high profile search and rescue operations are conducted by the United States Defense Department. The United States Coast Guard is famous for its refined search and rescue techniques and abilities. The Department of Homeland Security has issued the National Response Framework that outlines the federal government’s protocols during large-scale emergency situations. This framework divides federal search and rescue operations into 4 categories: FEMA/ Homeland Security led “Structural Collapse”, waterborne efforts led by the Coast Guard, inland-wilderness led by the Department of Interior, and an aeronautical field led by the Air Force.