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LETTER: Call for Search and Rescue volunteers

There is a vaguely female, electronic voice on the phone speaking in a measured tone without emotion. There will also be text, and email messages; calling out the members of Pictou County Volunteer Ground Search And Rescue. The GSAR (pronounced ‘GeeSar’) team members grab their gear and head out the door for another search. Our team had nine searches in 2017 and we were heading out on Tuesday, January 23rd for what was already their second search of 2018. They travelled to support another team, Strait Area Ground Search And Rescue in the Cape George area of our province. Fire Departments have mutual aid, GSAR has multi-team searches. This was another multi-team search. There are 23 GSAR teams in Nova Scotia and we all work together.

By 8 o’clock in the morning the Pictou County team was set up on the wharf at Ballantyne's Cove to start the search with the Strait team for a missing person. We operate from our trailer Incident Command Post (ICP), working for the police - in this case an RCMP - Incident Commander (the ‘IC’). Like the other GSAR teams in Nova Scotia, we have multiple radios, electronic mapping, and GPS units which we can download after a search team’s return, to record where they were, and what ground they covered. The computer monitor on the wall of the ICP shows the live position of the search teams on the ground on an aerial photograph or map of the area. This is the RTT (Real Time Tracking) system, which shows where every search team is…live…updated every two minutes. There is a GPS system in our portable radios, which transmits the radio’s…which is the search team’s…location.

There is lots of gear and equipment at a search, but really that is nothing…nothing at all…without the people! Our team members, the volunteers, those wonderful people who give of their time, often called out in the middle of the night, and in all weather conditions to assist the police and the family to find a missing, a lost person. Our team goal is always the same, to bring the missing, the lost person home, alive and well.

On Tuesday, January 23rd, a week day, a work day, we arrived to assist the Strait Team and the Police in searching for a missing person. We had 13 members who responded. This was not enough to run a search by ourselves, but we were able to assist the Strait team and the Police. On Wednesday, January 24th, the second day of the search, we returned to the wharf, with 7 members and to the search again.

Like many volunteer organizations, we need people. We need volunteers to come forward and join with us to help find the lost person. There are many jobs our team needs people for. Searcher, a person who can carry a pack and can physically go on a potentially strenuous ‎hike on rough ground to look for the missing person. How about computer operation? All our search data has to be entered into a computer database and we do that at the search. We operate a minimum of 3 computers during a search. We also need our vehicles and equipment made ready for the next search. You never know when the next call is going to come in! In short there are‎ lots of jobs on a search team. We need people to fill them at every search.

We don’t expect that every member can attend every search, but we do need to have large numbers of volunteers, so that we can ensure enough trained personnel for each search we have, and we provide the training for these volunteers.

Have you been thinking of volunteering in 2018? Do you want to help out your community in Pictou County and when assisting other GSAR teams, helping across Nova Scotia? Do you think you can meet the challenges of being on a GSAR team? If you are looking for some‎ personal satisfaction in helping your community, this could be it for you. Please consider Pictou County Volunteer Ground Search And Rescue. We have great people now! We just need more!

Contact us at: P. O. Box 1144, Trenton, N. S., B0K 1X1 or

902-301-7891 or

Charlie Strickland

Search Director

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