In a search, fast action is essential. To achieve this, everyone must have a clear understanding and grasp of their responsibilities. Community SAR organizations need to have clear plans and procedures that lay out the steps taken during a search, complete with the contact information of all individuals and territorial/federal agencies involved (knowing how to contact Nunavut Emergency Management and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre is vital). These SAR cards should be made available to community members and distributed to all groups, agencies, and departments involved in a search.
Community responders should work together to create clearly-defined SAR roles for each person on a SAR Committee/GSAR team/Auxiliary unit. Everyone should know what they have to do to prepare for a search and to complete their tasks immediately (e.g. buying food, checking the weather, preparing a kamotik, getting information from the missing person’s family). If each team member has a clearly-defined role, they can also train new SAR members in that role to ensure that there is always a replacement if any member is unable to participate.
Community SAR teams should have a clear understanding of who is on standby and who is ready to join a search on short notice. Members of Coast Guard Auxiliary units who are on standby are generally expected to be within 15 minutes of their vessel at all times. Community responders should also know what other community resources could be used during a prolonged search (e.g. other community members/groups, professional guides, Canadian Ranger patrol, etc.). For example, Cambridge Bay GSAR has 10-12 members who are always ready and willing to go out on searches. The team has two four-man groups on standby with another two four-man groups that can be called upon quickly. Cambridge Bay also has a pool of trained guides, all of whom have extensive experience on the land, wilderness first aid training, and are well-equipped. These guides represent a tremendous resource during searches. If a search is extending and/or expanding and the core GSAR team requires support, they turn to the guides first. After that, the team will put a call out for community volunteers.
Members of SAR teams and Auxiliary units must ensure that their equipment is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Each community requires multiple well trained and experienced SAR coordinators and unit leaders – they make the entire system work. If a search occurs over an extended period of time, a community will require multiple coordinators. In cases where a coordinator is closely related (a family member or friend) to the person who is missing, additional coordinators should be available and able to take over a mission.