By Samantha Johnson
The South Eastern Alberta Search and Rescue Association (SEASAR) has, like everyone else, found things more complicated during the pandemic, but are still active, still training new members and still receiving funding. This year they have received a promise for three years of funding from both Pembina and Cypress County. In addition, Kirk’s Tire has recently donated much needed trailer tires to the association.
In addition, their major fundraiser of the year is coming up on May 7, the Medicine Hat Massacre Race (www.mhmassacre.ca). This year there will be two races, the regular one and a light one, which has a later start time of 9 a.m. “It a dark start, so (the main race will) start at 4 a.m. and it goes to 1 p.m. and the purpose is to go and log checkpoints across various terrains,” said Stephanie Lindstedt, SEASAR secretary.
According to the MH Massacre website each participant will have to “Hike, bike, kayak, and bushwhack your way to each checkpoint with only a map and compass to guide you.”
SEASAR now owns the race thanks to a donation from the original creator, Dr. Gerry Prince.
With regard to the pandemic, Lindstedt said, “it’s hard to balance the regulations with the need to be together, our training is best done face to face, there are very hands on skills we deal with.” The result is a decrease in training events and almost no social events, “which affects our retention and the engagement of our members. That is always a challenge because search and rescue is very much about hurry up and wait and right now we’ve been doing lots of waiting and we are all very action oriented people,” added Lindstedt.
The pandemic hasn’t resulted in any change to their call volume, which fluctuates from year to year regardless. “The only uptick we saw was right when lockdown happened, we had two extra calls that we probably wouldn’t have had without that influence,” commented Lindstedt.
Due to where SEASAR is located, they get lots of different calls, from urban to wilderness ones. They mostly take calls from the RCMP and MHPS but also go out to Elkwater and Brooks and every town between. Lindstedt said, “if we were more focused on just one thing, such as mountain rescue, it would be easier to say what is affecting the call volume. We don’t have that correlation because we have such a diverse callout.” Factors in callouts for search and rescue groups are very localized, making it difficult for different groups across the province or country to share data.
“We are always looking at building relationships with our tasking agencies and it’s at an all time high,” said Lindstedt. “When the call volume goes up it tells us the tasking agencies see the value of us being here.” In addition, their search managers consult with different agencies for things that aren’t a callout for the SEASAR team, but the agencies want their take on a particular situation.
Lindstedt mentioned that there has been a decrease in membership, although it’s difficult to correlate the numbers from previous years as they are tracking membership differently now. “We’ve streamlined our training process. We are trying to get (new members) on the ground faster, get them involved as quickly as possible.”
A requirement for being a member is to first complete the basics training with an online course and then a written exam.
“The rest of the hard skills are done via a mentoring style. Some of the training is done in the evenings and some is done on actual callouts and mock callouts, practice ones we run for ourselves,” added Lindstedt.
If you are interested in joining SEASAR, they are always looking for new members. Check out their website at https://www.seasar.net/ and click on the Volunteer tab.