Community responders rank concerns about equipment usage and lack of volunteers as amongst the highest challenges that they face. Some roundtable participants proposed that the territorial or federal government should provide essential equipment and financial incentives to entice more recruits. While significant Coast Guard investments in new boats for Auxiliary units bolster local capacity, GSAR teams have received no comparable investments in equipment. Some participants suggested that two snowmobiles and two ATVs should be issued to each GSAR team for searches, while other participants insisted that they would never trust an untested, random snowmachine or ATV selected and maintained by government to mount a search. They trust their own personally-maintained equipment. Furthermore, participants worried that using financial incentives to recruit more volunteers could undermine the basis of the entire SAR system and other volunteer-based organizations in the North (including firefighters).
The Canadian Rangers model might be used to address both equipment challenges and the incentivization of volunteers. During training and official taskings, the military compensates Rangers when they use their own small-engine equipment (such as ice augers, chain saws, generators, and welding machines) and vehicles (including snowmachines, ATVs, dog teams, and boats) according to a fixed Equipment Usage Rate (EUR). This arrangement encourages Rangers to invest in their own equipment and tools appropriate to their local environment, which they can then use in their everyday lives without having to ask the government for permission to do so. In so doing, the EUR model represents a fair way of reimbursing Rangers for using their tools in military activities and makes a material contribution to local capacity-building. Furthermore, it means that the military does not have to assume an unnecessarily high sustainment burden when it comes to maintaining equipment dispersed across 64 communities in the Territorial North.
Funded by the federal government through Public Safety Canada, people using their personal equipment during authorized SAR training, exercises, and operations could receive compensation according to a SAR Equipment Usage Rate. Such a program would recognize that “wear and tear” on personal equipment that SAR volunteers use to serve the public good, and community responders could use these funds to ensure that their equipment is ready to use at a moment’s notice – a better solution than having NEM-owned machinery sitting in a sea container waiting for the next search.
Although a SAR EUR for volunteers represents a significant departure from how SAR operations are conducted in Southern Canada, it represents a distinct solution suited to the unique context of Nunavut communities. Individuals involved in SAR rely on their equipment for their occupations, food security, and culture. Consequently, the strain that repeated SAR operations has on their gear and machines directly affects their broader lives. Nunavummiut involved in SAR are the experts on their environment and the equipment that they need to operate in it safely. They are well situated to decide how they should invest EUR reimbursements to heighten their effectiveness. Accordingly, a SAR EUR model represents an equitable and innovative approach to supporting and bolstering community resilience.