SAR Prevention

To reduce the strain on community-based SAR organizations, greater investment in preventative measures should focus on whole-of-society SAR education and technological solutions. To promote a whole-of-society approach to prevention, SAR organizations should continue to provide consistent messaging about preparedness to the rest of their communities. One Kitikmeot roundtable participant noted that, “It’s all about persistence. We have to keep on telling people every chance we get, on Facebook [and] on the community radio.”

George Angohiatok, a long-serving member of Cambridge Bay GSAR, noted that, “everyone needs to know how to read a trail, how to identify what type of machine is used. This will let them know who has been lost. Everyone needs to pay attention, needs to learn how friends act on the land. [By educating the community] they could deal with the problem before it becomes a problem.”

Kugluktuk’s Roger Hitkolok emphasized the importance of teaching people what to take with them in their emergency kits, how to remain calm on the land, and what to do if they run into trouble. Community-based SAR organizations should deliver these messages using social media, at community events, at fundraising bingos, and during community training days. If these activities become too onerous for volunteers to lead, an alternative delivery model could have Ranger patrols engage in preventative activities as part of their official paid duties.

While Kitikmeot SAR Project participants suggested that community responders could increase their outreach efforts at community event, they also recommended that on-the-land survival skills should be part of the secondary school curriculum. One participant noted that he had completed a survival skills course in high school during the 1980s, but that this was no longer an option in the curriculum. Community members with land skills represent a core community strength, and participants suggested that a land-based course should be developed specifically to impart traditional knowledge and survival skills, teach navigation, and develop SAR capabilities. This resonates with recent calls by Inuit leaders for a decolonized educational system emphasizing Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and land-based education (Kaluraq, 2019; Obed, 2017). The focus on traditional skill and knowledge development also fits with recent research highlighting the adaptive capacity of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, which can foster adaptation to changing conditions, hazard avoidance, and emergency preparedness (e.g. Ford and Pearce, 2012; Pearce et al., 2015).

Participants also recommended that the territorial and federal governments should invest in innovative technological solutions to reduce travel risks. For example, SmartICE provides community members with the situation awareness required to plan for safe on-ice travel and boating routes. One participant highlighted how “everyone has a cell phone in the communities,” and erecting repeated towers to expand cell service to cover “the most common routes or hunting areas” would bolster community safety. (Kikkert et al., 2020, 49-50). Although these preventative technologies may require significant short-term investment, participants emphasized that they should reduce the burden on the SAR system and build individual and collective confidence when heading out on the land

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