Improving the System

To address the longstanding challenges facing Nunavut’s community-based SAR organizations, the findings from the Kitikmeot SAR Project encourage initiatives that recognize and enhance existing strengths in communities. Co-developed with community responders in the Kitikmeot, the suggestions and new approaches in this section are cost-effective, community-based SAR options that are rooted in the unique context of Nunavut’s communities, and are reflective of a community resilience-building approach.

One set of recommendations involves strengthening current programming, including the expansion of NEM’s inReach program, continued support for the enlargement of the CCGA, streamlining and improving awareness of the process to activate Canadian Ranger Patrols, and encouraging greater cooperation in the provision of training by federal and territorial agencies. The other set of recommendations propose new approaches, including a whole-of-society preventative SAR program centred on educational and youth programming, the adoption of a SAR equipment usage rate (EUR) model, and the launch of a Community Public Safety Officer program in Nunavut.

In addition, the practical and operational-focused suggestions for improvement listed below were offered by community responders participating in the Kitikmeot Roundtable on SAR. We will continue to add to this list as new suggestions come in. If you have any comments, feedback, and/or new ideas, please share.

Coordination, Cooperation, Organization, and Preparation

  • Every community should have a list of basic procedures for what to do during a search, including all contact information for territorial and federal partners. They can work through this like a checklist before, during, and after a search.
  • Every community should have a database that lists the skills and competencies of everyone involved in their SAR and emergency management organizations. Keeping such a database current should be a key part of the community emergency plan.
  • Reference SAR cards should be made and maintained for every community containing the contact information of the local SAR Committee or GSAR team members, of all the territorial and southern organizations involved, and information on all of the SAR resources in a community. Southern organizations should be provided with these SAR cards so that they know with whom they are working in each community.
  • Create memorandums of understanding between community groups and the RCMP for use of snowmachines and other equipment.
  • Increase the coordination and cooperation between community groups. The different community-based SAR organizations should meet regularly and create a common training schedule. If one group is going to receive first aid training, they should open the training to members of all of the different groups whenever possible. Equipment could be shared between groups. Furthermore, community groups should have opportunities to train and exercise with each other.
  • NEM should consider distributing decks of playing cards to communities with tips on how to survive on the land (for example, how to wait out dangerous situations like storms, or what to do if your machine breaks down).
  • Funding should be secured to work with JRCC Trenton to produce a database or map with traditional names in Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun.


  • Horizontal and vertical training coordination: The main responsibility for preparing community-based SAR organizations falls to Nunavut Emergency Management (GSAR), the Canadian Coast Guard (Auxiliary), and the Canadian Armed Forces (Rangers and CASARA). Currently, community stakeholders explained that there is no formal coordination between these groups and that these agencies should seek to synchronize training schedules and share information on local capabilities. For example, if the Rangers bring in an instructor to teach wilderness first aid, an invitation to participate should be extended to the GSAR team and CCGA. If Coast Guard trainers are running an exercise with a community’s auxiliary unit, they could invite the Ranger Patrol and GSAR team to participate in a joint exercise. Sharing training schedules between territorial and federal agencies is a straightforward solution to leverage existing community-based capabilities, realize cost savings, and improve efficiencies.
  • Municipal, territorial, and federal governments should provide time off, with pay, to allow their employees to pursue training opportunities. This recommendation reflects the high number of community responders who are employed by the municipal, territorial, and federal governments.
  • A new course should be developed for members of the SAR Committee who do not engage in searches, but remain in the community to support families and to perform administrative tasks.
  • Think of incentives to encourage people to volunteer for SAR and participate in training. Ideas for incentives included: a small annual cash bonus, equipment and gear, and Nunavut or Kitikmeot SAR clothing and gear (“everyone loves swag!”).

Equipment and Tools

  • Each community GSAR team should be provided with at least four (4) Garmin inReach devices to provide to pairs that are deploying on the land.
  • Each GSAR team should have access to two snowmobiles and two ATVs to be used only during searches, training, and exercises. (This suggestion has generated significant debate and mixed opinions, with some searchers responding that they prefer to take their own, familiar machine out on the land, and that a better solution might be to establish an equipment fund that people could draw upon to buy their own equipment which could be used for SAR missions as well).
  • Funding should be provided to make caribou clothing for all members of a community’s GSAR team.
  • Funding should be used to erect permanent markers on the land, at regular intervals, which can serve as way-finders.
  • NEM should provide GSAR teams with dry suits for the shoulder seasons when most of the searchers occur. Dry suits would help with many searches.
  • Community groups should work on standardizing the radios that they use to ensure that they are interoperable.
  • Each community should have a dedicated SAR building where they can store supplies, equipment, and fuel, hold meetings, and which can serve as a command post during SAR missions.


  • Think of incentives to encourage people to volunteer for SAR and participate in training. Ideas for incentives included: a small annual cash bonus, equipment and gear, and Nunavut or Kitikmeot SAR clothing and gear (“everyone loves swag!”).

Lessons Learned

  • Community groups should have access to lessons learned from previous searches. This should include maps of where previous searches have occurred over the last decade. These learning materials will help community organizations to train and better prepare for SAR missions.
  • Whenever possible the results of a search should be analyzed: Where did it occur? What challenges were encountered? Solutions? How could we operate better? After every search, community SAR groups should consider holding a sharing circle, led by elders, to allow for debriefing, discussion of lessons learned, and critical incident stress management.
  • Communities should also consider holding meetings after every search to: (a) explain the search to the whole community, (b) share lessons learned, and (c) educate community members.

Preventative SAR

  • A basic survival course should be made mandatory for every elementary school student in Nunavut.
  • Communities should be given more funding and materials for preventative SAR: to make posters, to go into the schools and give presentations, and to talk with people one-on-one.
  • NEM should consider expanding its SPOT program to provide more devices to community members. Furthermore, NEM and HTO need to publicize this service to make sure people are using the devices.
  • More cabins should be built on the most commonly-used routes connecting the communities that provide people with shelter, basic supplies, and a radio to call for help.
  • “Everyone has a cell phone in the communities. Everyone. We need to push the cell service out on the land, push it out 50-100 miles from the community. Repeater towers on the hills can push the coverage way out. We could put repeaters on the most common routes or hunting areas. We could put repeaters at all the DEW Line sites, every 100 miles. Making sure they are up and running could be part of the Ranger NWS site checks.[1] This seems to be a cheaper option than giving everyone an inReach.”

Federal Primary SAR Assets

  • Deploy more federal assets to the Kitikmeot. RCAF Twin Otters (CC-138), Hercules (CC-130), or helicopters could be stationed in Cambridge Bay during the shoulder or turning seasons when most searches occur. Furthermore, the Canadian Coast Guard station should consider establishing a station in Cambridge Bay that is operational during the summer months.

Preparing for Mass Rescue Operations

  • The actions that community-based groups could take during an MRO should be further developed and practiced by community members in partnership with federal and territorial agencies. The training and equipment required to complete these tasks should be provided to community-based groups and tracked through community emergency plans. Community emergency plans should be kept as up to date as possible and be built to reflect the specific local contexts of each community. A generalized or standardized plan will not work in a real emergency.
  • Cruise/tour operators should consider sharing their emergency plans and procedures with the communities that they plan to visit or travel near – and particularly with members of community-based SAR organizations. This would foster relationship-building with the people with whom they might have to work during an MRO or smaller-scale SAR operation, and would allow community members to get a sense of the capabilities, plans, and equipment these companies possess. These companies should consider donating rescue equipment to the community groups whose assistance they might require at some point.
  • Communication and coordination would be vital in an MRO (at the community-level, between responders and the JRCC, responders and the ship’s crew, between the different groups acting at the scene, etc). Lines of communication and coordination must be firmly established and put to the test through exercises.
  • Participants in the Kitikmeot Roundtable on SAR highlighted the importance that a Tabletop Exercise (TTX) can play in preparing and planning for an MRO or SAR operation – it allowed the different groups involved to navigate the complexity of an MRO while seated around the same table. Through this TTX, federal and territorial learned a great deal about community capabilities and approaches to disasters, while community members learned about some of the resources at the disposal of federal agencies (eg. the MAJAID Kit). The TTX also offered a chance to build the relationships that would be required in a real MRO. Participants hoped that the Coast Guard, other federal agencies, or academics would offer additional exercises at the community level, eventually moving towards functional and full-scale exercises.

Katimatjutauyunit katimaqatauyut hapkuninnga kinguani pitquihimayut ihuaqhautighat Qitiqmiunmi SAR-kut havauhiinut:

  • Hanalutik parnaiyautighanik havauhighaniklu nunallaarni SAR-kunnut, iniqhimalutik hivayaqtaghat naunaitkutait iliqahiutilugit, ayuitait, ilihaqhimayait, ingilrutait, ilihimayaillu nunallaarmiut kiuhiyit – hapkua tuniyauhimayughat talvunga aviktuqhimayumi kavamatuqaillu timiqutainut
  • Ilihaqtitauqattaqlutik, katimaqattaqlutik, ayuiqhaqattaqlutiklu ikayuqtigiingniqmik parnaiyainiqmiklu nunallaarnit katimaqatigiingnik taapkualu aviktuqhimayumi kavamatuqanillu ikayuqtiit
  • Ilittuqhitigiigutingnik titiraqlutik nunallaanit katimaqatigiit taapkualu RCMP-kut atuqpagiamik sikiitunik ahiniklu ingilrutinik
  • Haamlanit, aviktuqhimayumi, kavamatuqaillu kavamait havaktailillaktaghait akiliqtaulutik huli havaktiit ilihaqtitauyaamik SAR-kunnik
  • Ilauyuminaqhilugu nunallaarmingnik SAR-kut timiqutainut
  • Nunallaarnit katimaqatigiit takupkaqtitauyughat ilihimaliqtait hivuani qiniqhiaviinit
  • Manighaqpaalliqlutik ikayuutighait qiniqhiattailiniqmut SAR-nik ilihaitjutighanullu, ilihaqtitauyughaniklu ilihaqvingnit annaiyaamik
  • NEM-kut piannaliurniqmik ihumayughat naunaitkutalingnik annaiyaamik nunainnaqmi
  • Ingilrutiit ilihaqtitaghallu pitquyauhimayut: tuktunik aannuraanik, paniumayunik puuvyaarutinik, Nunainnaqmi Aanniqtunik Kiutjutit, ilihaqtittilutik nutaamik ilihaqtaghamik talvuuna “nunallaarmiut havaaghainut qiniqhiaplutik” (titiraliqiniq, parnaiyainiq), atuqtaulluaqtunik naalautiqarlutik tamangnik havaqatigiit, amigaiqpallialugit inReach hivayautit GSAR-kut atuqtaghait, naunaitkuhiqtuqlutik nunainnaqmi qauhitighat humiittaagharnik, SAR-kut ikluqpaghainik nunallaat akunngani qauhittiarnaqtuniklu SAR-kut nunauyaghainik
  • Tamangnik nunallaat ikluqpaqaqtughat SAR-kut tutquumavighainik hunaqutinik, ingilrutinik, uqhughaniklu; katimavighainik; havakviulaaqtumiklu SAR-kut havaktillugit.
  • Tamangnik GSAR-kut ikayuqtigiit atuqtitauvaktughat malrungnik sikiiturnik malrungniklu nunakkuurutinik ATV-nik atuqtauyughat qiniqhiatillugit, ilihaqtillugit, aullaaqtitautillugillu; manighautinulluuniit ingilrutinut atuqtaunginnarialingmik qiniqhiayinit ingilrutainut sikiituinullu
  • Amigaiqpallialugit taapkua Umiaqtuqtut Annaktit Katimayiit taapkualu Nunaqaqqaaqhimayut Nunallaarnit Qayakkut Ikayuqtit Qauyihautauyuq Hivulliqpaaq Havaaghaq Taluryuami Kuugaaryungmilu.
  • Havaaghaniktittilutik SAR-kut parnaiyighaanik tamangnik nunallaarnit
  • Tigumiaqtat hivayautait turaaqviit ungahighivaalliqlugit qiniqhiattailiniqmut SAR-kunnit
  • Ilaupkaivallialugit kavamatuqanit SAR-kut Qitiqmiuni aulapkaihimmaaqlugit aippaagunnguraangalluuniit (hanalut Kaniitian Tingmiakkuuqtut Anguyaktit tingmianganik Iqaluktuuttiaqmi; hanalutik Umiaqtuqtut Annaktit havakvianiklu aviktuqhimayumi)
  • Katimatjutigilugit Qitiqmiuni SAR-kut malruk ukiut naattaraangat – iharianaqtuq ilagiittiarniqmut, naunaiqhitigiingniqmut, ihuaqhainiqmullu Qitqqmiuni SAR-kut havauhiinik 

[1] The Canadian Ranger task list includes a provision of service to the North Warning System (NWS) to conduct patrols of the NWS sites that are most accessible to each community.

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