Federal Search and Rescue activities are important. The 2013 Auditor General’s report revealed that overall, federal activities have met established minimum standards of readiness to respond when people in distress need assistance. However, two factors present significant risks to readiness: the continued availability of sufficient numbers of trained search and rescue personnel and the maintenance of aging equipment. The report concluded that significant improvements are needed if the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard are to continue to adequately respond and provide the necessary personnel, equipment, and information systems for efficient service delivery.
The Auditor General concluded that the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard adequately respond to air and marine search and rescue (SAR) incidents. However, we noted that significant improvements are needed if they are to continue to adequately respond and provide the necessary personnel, equipment, and information systems to deliver SAR activities effectively.
– Personnel shortages and training challenges could limit the ability of the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard to maintain SAR operations.
– The Canadian Coast Guard has replaced some of its SAR lifeboats and has a maintenance schedule for its SAR vessels. However, Canadian Forces’ search and rescue airplanes are older and require frequent extensive maintenance, and helicopters are either insufficient in number, or less capable of responding to SAR incidents.
– The information system used to manage search and rescue cases does not adequately support operational requirements, and a replacement system is not expected until the 2015–16 fiscal year.
National Defence, the Canadian Coast Guard, and Transport Canada participate in the Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund, a contribution program intended to reduce the number and severity of search and rescue incidents. Transport Canada has a regulatory framework that promotes safety in transportation. However, there is no coordinated federal prevention strategy to reduce the number and severity of SAR incidents.
While roles and responsibilities are clear at the operational level for the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard, the departments do not have a standard set of principles for coordination with other levels of government on national matters. Also, the National Search and Rescue Secretariat has not implemented their 1986 mandate to put in place a national policy framework, nor does it have the ability to measure overall federal program performance. Therefore, these entities do not have the framework in place to adequately oversee search and rescue activities.
Radio Interview on Federal Search and Rescue
The Federal Search and Rescue Activities Report is discussed in this CBC Radio Newfoundland interview. Listen to Wave Point Consulting Associate, K. Joseph Spears and the host talk about this important subject.
K. Joseph Spears provided additional insights in his August 2015 article in Canadian Sailings entitled ‘Canada’s marine response: Are we ocean strong?’