The long-awaited ground-based search and rescue investigation in Newfoundland and Labrador has now ended, with its commissioner releasing his recommendation to the public on Wednesday.
The 159-page final report looked at the state of rescue operations in the province, noting that the missions relied heavily on what it described as underfunded volunteer groups. Commissioner James Igloliorte presented 17 recommendations to the provincial government to improve search and rescue services.
Government grants to volunteer search and rescue groups.
Increase training for volunteer groups.
Strengthening bonds with the families of the missing.
Mental health support for first responders and rescue volunteers. External assessment of volunteer search and rescue teams to ensure they are operating to “minimum standards”.
The report also recommends that the provincial government consider implementing a regulation that requires sledding riders and other “outdoor adventurers” to wear tracking devices.
He also called for a review of 911 services “with the aim of [is] streamlining the existing process to ensure that distress calls are handled optimally”, stressing the importance of of air support for ground missions.
Some of the 17 recommendations acknowledged the province’s reliance on an “aging” volunteer workforce, which often spends a lot of time fundraising for supplies.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue Association, which represents local volunteer rescue groups, receives $200,000 a year from the provincial government – an amount the report says is a fraction of the cost its annual fee.
“NLSARA is an impressive organization that, through the extraordinary efforts of its committed members, provides essential ground search and rescue services in [the province].… However, there is a reason due to fear that the current situation is unsustainable,” wrote Igloliorte.
He noted that challenges in recruiting and retaining members, in addition to difficulties in raising capital, can lead to member burnout.
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