SAR NEW INITIATIVES FUND
Celebrating successes in SAR innovation
Introduced by the federal government in 1988, the SAR New Initiatives Fund (SAR NIF) provides funding for new projects and initiatives which aim to improve the National Search and Rescue Program. The program is administered by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS), on behalf of the Lead Minister for Search and Rescue in partnership with other federal, provincial and territorial SAR organizations.
The intent of the SAR NIF program is to support projects within federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions which enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, economy and innovation of search and rescue activities as they relate to the response and prevention objectives of the National Search and Rescue Program. Proposals for projects are submitted to the federal, provincial or territorial SAR NIF partner or a recognized national, provincial or territorial SAR volunteer association, who then select the proposals that best support their own SAR priorities for submission to the NSS.
Since its inception, the program has supported a variety of projects across Canada that have addressed program and partner priorities, and supported at least one of the National SAR Program priorities:
To date, the SAR NIF program has provided support to a wide variety of projects, all of which have had a positive effect on Canadian SAR activities. However, as with any program of this kind, a few projects have demonstrated a significant impact on improving SAR – making them true SAR NIF success stories.
Bobbie the Safety Boat – Making Boating Safety Education Fun
As a result of an increase in recreational boating in Canada, the need for boating safety education rose dramatically. While there were a number of resources available to promote education and awareness to adult boaters, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxillary – Pacific (CCGA-P) recognized a gap in resources targeting children.
The CCGAs response was to develop a new approach to promoting boating safety awareness and education to children – one that was interactive and informative. It developed "Bobbie the Safety Boat" in 2003, in collaboration with Transport Canada and with support funding from the SAR NIF, and developed support materials and activities for children to further promote Bobbie's message.
Using an animatronics remote-controlled robot named Bobbie, the program offers a fun and educational way to engage children in learning about boating safety. Bobbie the Safety Boat teaches children about water safety by captivating their attention and allowing them to make effective decisions regarding personal safety and the protection of their own life and that of others.
Today, Bobbie the Safety Boat is in high demand to participate in boat shows, parades, fairs, marine festivals and other water related events across the country. Plans are currently underway to expand the project in coming years.
To learn more about Bobbie the Safety Boat, please visit: www.ccga-pacific.org.
Nova Scotia Ground SAR Association – Using Search Management and Reports Tracking (SMART) to Support GSAR
In order to enhance the effectiveness of their SAR response, Nova Scotia Ground SAR (GSAR) Association recognized the potential to use technology to support improvements to their operations. They identified two key areas in which digital technologies would have a demonstrable impact on GSAR: the development of a system which could effectively register and track searchers and equipment during search missions, and an input and tracking system capable of logging searcher training and volunteer hours in a standardized format across the province.
With funding from the SAR NIF program in 2007, Nova Scotia GSAR was able to accomplish its goals. Today, the province's Search Management and Reports Tracking (SMART) program links all local ground search and rescue teams in the province by satellite and remote laptops. The SMART platform allows for real time information on the number of volunteer searchers in Nova Scotia, the number of volunteer hours committed by each individual/team/organization, and the particulars of a specific search mission. The platform can also set up system parameters to analyse data collected from past events with the intent identifying common factors leading up to people becoming lost. This valuable data is key to developing more effective and targeted education and awareness efforts in support of prevention outreach.
The successful implementation of these technologies has assisted in more efficient planning and execution of searches and in the coordination of training and personnel deployment province wide. In addition, this project is now looked at as a model for other provinces and territories interested in adopting a similar platform for their own GSAR communities.
For more information on Nova Scotia GSAR SMART project, please contact the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office at http://emo.gov.ns.ca.
Cold Water Boot Camp – Teaching the Cold Hard Facts about Cold Water Immersion
In Canada, most lakes, ponds and other waters remain cold year round. Cold enough to be a dangerous and major contributor to recreational drowning deaths every year. Many of these deaths occur sometimes within metres of shore, involving people in boats that have capsized, and who – more often than not – were not wearing proper safety equipment (PFD, immersion suits or other).
Knowing these facts, the Cold Water Boot Camp project team recognized that education was key to prevention and, in 2007, set out to develop a comprehensive program intended to inform, motivate and change behaviours. Specifically, the project aimed to communicate a key message: that the key to surviving in cold water was wearing a lifejacket.
Key to the success of this project was the use of real-life volunteers who completed a gruelling swim in the frigid waters of Lake Simcoe in April, to demonstrate the very real effects of cold water immersion. Through captured video and the development of a multi-faceted collection of educational resources based on observations during their in-lake session, the project team was able to make a significant contribution to educating the general public on the dangers of cold water and the importance of wearing a personal floatation device at all times when on board a boat. In addition, the training materials have been used to support the teaching of first responders and professionals in responding to cold water SAR situations.
For more information on the Coldwater Boot Camp program visit: www.coldwaterbootcamp.com.
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary's marine simulation program
With the rising costs and decreasing budgets, it is becoming harder to efficiently train search and rescue (SAR) personnel.
The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) in the Pacific region has found a solution: develop a new volunteer SAR training program that uses emerging technology to improve the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the existing training program.
Sponsored by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and funded through the New Search and Rescue Initiatives Fund, CCGA Pacific purchased a marine simulator and integrated it into the existing training program, which improves the quality and quantity of training that takes place. In turn, this increases the SAR effectiveness and safety of crew members.
The CCGA has 1,400 volunteers, but each receives only a limited amount of on-water training – between 40 and 48 hours per year. Depending on the crew member's skill and experience, a large portion of this time is devoted to familiarization and navigation lessons, with a smaller portion dedicated to SAR techniques.
Funding restraints mean crew members may spend as little as two hours a month on the water in dedicated training time, and they may never encounter the dangerous conditions they are likely to face during a SAR incident.
The CCGA's marine simulator software is currently used to train ship's captains and crew members in non-emergency and emergency situations. Developed by the Centre for Marine Simulation and Virtual Marine Technology Inc., the software uses real marine charts to simulate accurate real-life marine environments and a wide-variety of marine conditions can be easily created and manipulated by trained instructors.
The initiative decreased on-water training by at least 20 hours, while crew members become more experienced, more knowledgeable and more effective on the water after training with the marine simulator.
Not only did this increase the effectiveness and efficiency of marine SAR training, but it enhanced boating safety education.
The CCGA Pacific has a well-established boating safety program in many coastal and inland communities and members attend hundreds of boating safety events each year. These events are already an opportune time for members to distribute safety information, but the added marine simulation component adds a dynamic element to the training for all involved.
Handheld active imager for underwater SAR ops
The Department of National Defence (DND), in partnership with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), and with funds received from SAR NIF, developed a handheld underwater imager that enhances the safety and response-time of underwater SAR operations. The device improves on, adapts, miniaturizes and makes more rugged a handheld version of the larger Laser Underwater Camera Image Enhancer (LUCIE) active imaging system.
Use of LUCIE in search, rescue, and recovery operations increases visibility by a factor of five in coastal waters, and allows the operators of underwater search vehicles to cover approximately 10 times more area in the same time as with a conventional system. The system also allows the operator to see five times deeper when used from a surface vehicle. The addition of the geo-positioning capability renders the system relatively independent of the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) or boat used to carry it. The built-in geo-positioning capability enables the system to relay precise directions and effectively cooperate with other maritime rescue and recovery units. Because the system is relatively independent, its use can be called upon in relatively short notice with small surface boats and underwater ROV. The combination of flexibility in the choice of ROV, absolute location capability and reduced search time provided improved performance for underwater search, rescue and recovery operations.
DND/DRDC built and tested a compact battery powered handheld version of the LUCIE active imager with a helmetmounted viewer for underwater SAR operations such as those involving capsized boats. The compact handheld imager is operable by a single SAR diver. This device considerably improves the range (depending on turbidity of the water) at which a SAR diver can identify obstacles. It allows the diver to gauge distance to such obstacles, see the environment more clearly, and avoid potentially dangerous manoeuvres in hazardous and time-critical operations. In the case of capsized vessels, the ability to see more clearly and to gauge accurately the distance to both trapped victims and potentially dangerous hazards helps prevent diver entanglement and misdirection, and accelerates this very time-critical operation, which improves the victim's survival chances.
The enhanced portability and ease of use of the underwater handheld imager shortens search time and improve the accuracy of underwater search, rescue and recovery operations. It is also credited with increased SAR diver safety and optimal use of response time for underwater SAR operations.
While these projects represent only a handful of the important and innovative search and rescue related projects underway across Canada, they are significant in that they demonstrate the exceptional commitment of SAR practitioners to improving education and prevention.
SAR NIF provides funding on an annual basis to projects submitted and selected based on their merits and contribution to the objectives of the National Search and Rescue Program. While there is a deadline for submission of proposals to the NSS, each SAR NIF federal, territorial and provincial partner establishes their own deadline for receiving proposals for consideration. Therefore, prospective applicants must contact the federal, territorial or provincial partner that will be supporting their initiative to indicate their interest in submitting a proposal, and to ensure they meet any established deadlines.
To find out more about the SAR NIF program, or to learn how to apply for funding, please visit the National Search and Rescue Secretariat website at www.nss-snrs.gc.ca.