Be AdventureSmart.

Whether your activity is during the summer or winter, on land on water, anywhere in Canada, remember the Three T’s and follow the steps.




Taking the


Trip Planning

  • Plan your travel route

  • Know the terrain and conditions

  • Check the weather

  • Always fill out a trip plan

Canada is a country of extremes – rugged mountains, glistening waters, lush rainforests, vast prairies, barren wastelands, icy glaciers, extensive coastlines. Though Canada’s scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, it also plays host to unpredictable and potentially dangerous terrain, weather, and wildlife.

We rarely head out for an outdoor adventure with the expectation that something will go wrong, and most times everything will go right. However, that one time that the unexpected happens…your investment in Trip Planning can mean the difference between a successful outcome and becoming a statistic.

The reason you should complete a trip plan and leave it with someone you trust is so someone will know where to begin a search if you do not return at the intended time. If you leave a trip plan with a friend, make sure they are aware of why you are doing so, and explain to them the importance of their role.

The trip plan must answer all the basic questions (sometimes known as the 5 W’s and H), as all of these questions will be asked by a search manager initiating a search.

  • WHO? Provide names and a detailed description of who is in your party, what they are wearing, gear they have with them, training and experience, medical conditions, who to notify, etc.
  • WHEN? Include when you are going and when you plan to return from your trip. If you are not back at the intended time of day, this is what will initiate a response first from your friend then from SAR. It is good to build in a buffer to allow for minor mishaps and underestimating the time it may take for your trip.
  • WHY? State the purpose of your trip, and the mode in which you will be traveling (e.g. day hike, overnight, skiing, climbing, mushroom-picking, etc.).
  • WHERE? Give specific locations of the area in which your trip is, as well as your intended route to your destination. It is also good to provide an alternate route.
  • WHAT? List the equipment and supplies you have with you will help searchers know what to look for, as well as determine your level of preparedness for the given terrain and weather.
  • HOW? Indicate how you are getting to the starting point and end point of your trip. Many searches begin at the subject’s vehicle.

Planning a search and rescue effort starts with assessing the subject’s destination, probable route, and likely location. The best chance of rescue exists close to the place where you initially become lost. At a distance of 1km from your planned route, the search area is 3.1 square km. At 3 km from your route, it is 28 square km and at 10 km it is 314 square km! Therefore, if you stick to your trip plan, and are near your intended route, your chances of being found are good.

Have you completed a TRIP PLAN and sent it to a friend or family member?

Completing a trip plan is extremely important. It explains your destination, travel route, equipment and expected return time. It is vital information to assist authorities searching for you in the event of an emergency.

If no one knows you are missing, no one will be looking for you.

With the AdventureSmart Trip Plan app you can easily create trip plans and send them to your family and friends. The app is available free in the Apple App Store for iOS devices and on Google Play for Android devices, and can also be accessed from any web browser.


  • Obtain the knowledge and skills you need before heading out.

  • Know and stay within your limits.

AdventureSmart is a national program dedicated to encouraging Canadians and visitors to Canada to “Get informed and go outdoors”.

AdventureSmart combines online and on-site awareness with targeted outreach to try and reduce the frequency, severity and duration of Search and Rescue Incidents.

Taking the Essentials

In our cautionary tale, Jo “A” and Jo “B” had the same start to their adventures, yet one outcome was clearly going to be happier (and more comfortable) than the other. Taking the essentials was a key reason for this difference.

What survival items do you think should be carried in your pack for any outdoor adventure, whether the duration is a few hours or several days? These are not the specialized (and often essential) pieces of equipment that you would bring for your given activity (skis, a kayak, avalanche tranceiver, etc.), nor are they the items you would pack specifically for a camping trip (tent, sleeping bag, etc.), but are the basic survival items you should have in ANY outdoors situation.

Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb

A large number of unplanned overnights could be prevented by carrying a flashlight or headlamp. Often, someone who requires rescue did not start out lost, but simply ran out of daylight and was unable to get back to their car or the trailhead. Once it gets dark, the chances of getting lost are greater. Although we all have some night vision, we are much more vulnerable after dark. Without a source of light, moving at night can be dangerous.

Fire-making kit – waterproof matches/ lighter, fire starter/candle

This can be vital to staying warm enough outdoors during a change in the weather, an injury, or an unplanned overnight. Fire can be used for providing essential warmth, drying clothing,cooking food, signaling, melting snow or boiling unsafe water, keeping animals away. As well, fire can provide an important boost to the morale. The survival benefits of fire are more than just physical. It is important to practice with fire-making items, and not to underestimate the skill necessary to start a fire, especially in wet weather.

Signaling device – whistle or mirror

A whistle or a signaling mirror can increase your chances of being heard or seen. It takes much less energy to blow a whistle than it does to yell, and the sound carries farther. A signaling mirror is the device that is responsible for more Search and Rescue subject sightings by aircraft than any other type of signal. In actual rescues, a signalling mirror has been spotted from a rescue plane over five miles distant.

Extra food and water (1 litre/person)

Sometimes a trip can last much longer than anticipated, and having extra food and water can make the difference between an extended stay and a survival situation. Outdoor activities require energy, and having extra food can give us the boost we need to get out of an unplanned situation. Water is even more important, and is needed by the body even more than food. A loss of 10% of total body fluid will cause extensive disruption of bodily functions; a loss of 20% usually results in death. Under “normal” circumstances, a person can survive for only 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food.

Extra clothing (rain, wind, water protection and toque)

The importance of bringing extra clothing cannot be underestimated, and yet often people have not brought enough clothing to keep them warm in changing conditions. Even in summer, temperatures can vary dramatically depending on the terrain.

People often misjudge the conditions they will encounter because they only look at the weather they see before them. Hypothermia is a serious risk if you do not prepare to survive unexpected deterioration of the weather.

Navigation/communication aids

Carry maps and a compass at minimum. A Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, cellular phone, satellite phone, hand held radio or other alerting devices—all with fully charged batteries—are also valuable tools. Know how to use these items, but don’t over-rely on them and carry extra batteries. A lot of gadgets have been found on bodies.

First aid kit—know how to use it

Outdoor travelers are well advised to take a first aid course. There is no ‘911’ in the wilderness, and self-reliance is important. Courses that teach wilderness first aid teach this self-reliance when far from help.

Emergency Shelter

Always bring a orange tarp and/or emergency shelter. These can also be used as signalling devices and can be very useful in creating a makeshift shelter to keep a person dry. It may be the difference between getting hypothermia or not.


Pocket Knife

A knife is an important survival tool, and can be used to help in shelter building, making a fire and a number of other things.

Sun Protection

Sun protection includes glasses, sunscreen, and a hat. Sun exposure can lead to hyperthermia, dehydration, and burns. In bright environments like snowfields, it can also lead to snow blindness. These conditions can be painful, dangerous and debilitating.

Summary of Essentials

  • Flashlight

  • Fire making kit

  • Signalling device (i.e. whistle)

  • Extra food and water

  • Extra clothing

  • Navigational/communication devices

  • First aid kit

  • Emergency blanket/shelter

  • Pocket knife

  • Sun protection

Trip Tips

Always have a means of communication

Consider carrying a device compatible with your activity and location to call or alert others in an emergency.  Remember, if you are in danger, your chance of a successful outcome increases if your call is made as soon as possible.

Be Prepared

Ensure everyone with you understands what to do in case of an emergency. 

Don't depend solely on technology

Equipment failure and lack of reception are very possible in the outdoors. Consider carrying a map and compass as a backup.

Familiarize with your equipment

Know the capabilities and the limitations of the equipment you are planning to use as your lifeline to survival.

Let someone know where you are going

Always send your trip plan to a responsible party, family member or friend. They can notify authorities if you don’t return.

Stick to the plan

Throughout your activity, stick to the trip plan you left with a friend or family member. In the event that you do not return as stated in your plan, it can be given to police and search and rescue organizers to help them find you.

Travel with a companion

A companion can give you a hand to overcome difficulties or emergencies.

There are host of resources exist on the topic, from 20-minute videos to multi-day courses, one culminating in a two-day solo equipped with only a knife. The key to them all is getting out and actually practicing the skills. Do you know how to use your map and compass? Could you start a fire with a bow-drill at night, when you’re stressed, in a rainstorm? The chances of that are pretty low if you have never even practiced in favourable conditions. One thing that all the literature on the subject agrees upon is that the most important aspect of survival is in our heads.

Tom Brown, director of the world-famous Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School, is a world-renowned teacher of survival skills. In one of his many guidebooks on outdoor survival, he says, “It is truly said that the most important survival tool is the mind. But to keep the mind functioning smoothly, you must establish and maintain a positive attitude. Attitude can mean the difference between life and death.”

Be prepared for your chosen recreation

Being fit enough to go the distance takes physical preparation. Stick to your turnaround time. Take the proper equipment, have a trip plan and use reference and guide books.


Slowly work up to new activities. You can learn a lot about difficulty or commitment levels in reference or guide books. As you become more able in your chosen activity, you will be better equipped to estimate travel times. Be conservative to begin with, and always give yourself plenty of time for the return part of your trip. Being prepared also means being mentally prepared. Ask yourself, “What would I do here in a survival situation?” Another aspect of being prepared is being able to evaluate your own skills, including physical ability and outdoor skills such as map reading and route-finding.

More about Fitness

Grant Cromer, Campbell River SAR, says that an inability to properly evaluate one’s own skills can turn an outdoor trip into a SAR incident.

“Every year we do 3-5 rescues from Strathcona Park, using helicopters and quite often stretchers to rescue people who have overestimated their ability or are the “weak link” in the hiking party. I can’t even count the number of times we have rescued people who, after debriefing, all said the same thing, “The book said it would only take 2-3 days!”

“These are the same people that have poor map reading skills and don’t take into account terrain features, weather or other unforeseen events. Many people don’t understand the difference between a trail—a designated well defined marked trail usually maintained for public access, and a route—an undefined, often unmarked, potentially overgrown or non-existent route which will require navigation using map and compass and geo referencing.”

Grant also reminds outdoors enthusiasts with existing medical conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, asthma, etc. to be particularly aware of the extra stress that a new outdoor activity can be on the body, and to proceed with caution. As well, bring along any daily medications. A trip that takes longer than expected can end up as an emergency situation if important medications are forgotten.

Proper Equipment


In cold weather, the best way to stay warm is to trap your body’s own heat and using it as insulation. As well, you want to avoid getting damp from your own perspiration and keep the rain and the wind out. The best way to accomplish this is to wear layers.

More about Clothing
  • Base Layer: The inner-most layer is critical because it’s in direct contact with your skin. Base layers (also known as underwear) should transport moisture away from the skin and disperse it to the air or outer layers where it can evaporate. Because water is a good heat conductor, damp garments draw precious heat away from your body. Even in conditions above freezing, this rapid heat loss can cause a dangerous drop in your body’s core temperature.The best base layer materials are synthetics (polypropylene and polyester). These are light and strong, absorb very little water, and are quick to dry. Silk is lovely and cool against the skin when it’s hot, but is not an excellent choice for wintery conditions. Seamless or flat-seam garments lie flat and won’t press into your skin under a harness or pack. Base layers should fit snugly without being constricting.

    Base layers are available in light, medium, and heavy weights. Light layers suit aerobic activity where sweat dispersal is paramount. Mid-weight underwear provides moisture control and insulation for stop-and-go activities. Heavy layers are best in very cold conditions, or when you’re relatively inactive.

  • Mid Layer: The mid layer provides insulation and continues the transportation of moisture from the inner layer. To slow heat loss, this layer must be capable of retaining the warmth generated by your body. Wool and synthetics are well suited to this because the structure of the fibres creates small air spaces that trap molecules of warm air.Additional features, such as pit zippers and full-length front zippers, allow venting. As with the inner layer, this layer should be snug but not constricting.
  • Outer Layer: The outer layer protects you from the elements and should allow air to circulate and excess moisture to escape. For dry conditions, a breathable (uncoated) wind shell or a smooth-surfaced soft shell may be all you need. If you expect conditions to be more severe, a waterproof (coated) rain jacket might be adequate. A shell made of a breathable and waterproof fabric, such as Gore-Tex®, will protect you from wind and rain, and allow water vapour to escape. When it’s hot out, you want to choose clothing to protect yourself from the sun’s burning rays, as well as to make use of your perspiration for cooling.
  • Footwear: Specialized outdoor footwear is not just for mountain climbers and backpackers. Whether you’re lacing up for a rigorous trail run or an afternoon amble, the right footwear can enhance your comfort and safety. Unlike roads and sidewalks, even well-maintained trails can be rocky, rooty, and rolling. Your footwear needs to provide support against ankle-twisting irregularities, protect against the foot-bruising impact of trail debris, and perhaps shed mud, rain, or snow.Thanks to new materials and production processes, great strides have been made in the lightness and comfort of backcountry footwear. Originally developed to meet the needs of backcountry users who want to move light and fast, some of these innovations have been incorporated into mountaineering and regular backpacking boots.
Other equipment

Each sport or activity may have its own important pieces of equipment. Touring in winter, for example, requires avalanche rescue gear, including a transceiver, probe and shovel. Water sports have their own list of essentials. Most outdoor enthusiasts would include some kind of repair kit to deal with equipment problems out there, and duct tape seems to be a unanimous choice among the experts as a fundamental repair kit item.

Always carry the essentials

If necessary, be ready to stay out overnight. Carry a flashlight. Many people become lost because of darkness. As Wayne Merry, SAR guru and mountaineering pioneer says: “If you don’t have what you need with you, it’s a survival situation. If you have it, it’s a camping trip.”

Complete a trip plan and leave it with a friend

The trip plan explains your destination, the route you are taking, who is in the group and your return time. If you do not return as planned, the friend with whom you left the trip plan can give the form to the police to initiate a search.

Never hike alone

Hike with a group and keep together. Travel at the speed of the slowest person. If a person becomes separated, they are more likely to become lost. If you do hike alone, be aware of increased risks and always tell someone where you are going!

Do not panic

Maintain a positive mental attitude if you become lost. Being lost is not dangerous if you are prepared. Remember – if you have what you need, it’s a camping trip!

“LOST” Physiology and Psychology

To understand the importance of the simple phrase, “do not panic,” we need to look at the physiological and psychological aspects of fear, and also to understand the specific syndrome associated with being lost outdoors, called “woods shock.” The more we understand what might happen in our bodies and in our minds, the more we can work to avoid these negative effects.

More about Fear
  • Although the initial stages of fear have helped people surmount obstacles and have helped in survival situations, the long-term affects can be debilitating. People have lost mental capacities and have become overcome by fear.
    • Fear inhibits your metabolic process: Your body produces heat by digesting calories in the foods you eat. If this is impaired, your body has a harder time regulating core temperature in cold weather. Thus, the onset of hypothermia can manifest much more rapidly. By metabolizing food, your body creates energy that can be used to create shelter, signal for rescue, or make a fire.
    • Fear impairs your circulation: Basic first-aid training stresses the importance of the ABC’s (airway, breathing, circulation). Your circulatory system is how your body feeds itself, delivers oxygen to cells, eliminates waste products, and keeps itself warm and cool. In cold weather, blood flow is the primary means by which your body maintains its peripheral temperature, which is automatically restricted by the Sympathetic Nervous System’s (SNS) response to stress. Compromising circulation puts your odds for living into a serious tailspin in both hot and cold climates. In addition, the chances are good that your circulatory system will already be impaired due to dehydration.
    • Fear impairs your good judgment: Good judgment is your number one tool for preventing or dealing with a survival predicament in the first place. Poor judgment calls, without a doubt, are the hallmark of most outdoor fatalities. Occurrences such as auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, irrational behaviour, freezing in place, and the inability to think clearly have all been observed as by-products of survival stress. Do all you can to chill out and calm yourself, redirecting your energies away from the fear factors.
    • Fear impairs your fine and complex motor skills: Although these phenomena have been observed and documented for hundreds of years, and formally studied since the late 1800s, there is very little understanding by researchers as to why stress deteriorates performance.
    • There are 3 classifications of motor movement or skills:
      1. Gross: involves larger muscle groups – running, jumping, pushing, pulling, punching
      2. Fine: hand-eye coordination – threading a needle, making a mandala
      3. Complex: a whole string or series of movements – shooting a bow and arrow, riding horseback at a gallop
    • When fine and complex motor skills are affected, things like striking a match can become nearly impossible (brain is working on a more basic level). Gross motor skills can be performed very well (easier, quicker to remember under stress). Pack survival gear that is simple; note that two of the four impairments involve basic body temperature regulation. The biggest people-killer in the outdoor is exposure.

Woods shock

The syndrome was first named by William Syrotuck, and further study was conducted by Kenneth Hill in Nova Scotia. Although the study of lost person behaviour is a relatively new discipline and there is a lot of variation, the following is a description of the five stages of wood shock.

  1. You deny that you’re disoriented
  2. You panic when you admit that you’re lost
  3. You calm down and form a strategy
  4. You deteriorate both mentally and physically, as your strategy fails to get you out
  5. You become resigned to your plight as you run out of options
More about Woods Shock

Syrotuck says, “What they decide to do may appear irrational to a calm observer, but does not seem nearly so unreasonable to the lost person, who is now totally disoriented. If they do not totally exhaust themselves, they may eventually decide on some plan of action.”

Anyone can get lost, but not everyone can survive the experience. “The hardest thing is to admit that you’re lost,”said Bill Antell, who still remembers vividly the five nights he spent in the Breton woods of Nova Scotia 30 years ago.

“I figured that I’d wake up Monday morning and I would be around,” he said, “but I wasn’t betting too much on Tuesday. I knew I was getting more tired, I was cold, I was wet, and I knew that my time was starting to run out.” He was rescued. A small navigational error cost him 5 toes.

Admitting that you are lost and doing what you know you need to do in the situation is a way of avoiding proceeding through all five stages of woods shock.

S | T | O | P — Stop Think Observe Plan Then ACT!

The acronym STOP (stop, think, observe, plan and then act) highlights the importance of a survival attitude that involves carefully planned actions rather than irrational behaviour based on fear.

More about S.T.O.P.

It is very important to recognize that your body only has so much stored energy, and that it is essential to spend that energy efficiently.

  • Stay where you are: People who carry on after they become lost usually get further from the trail and from people who are looking for them. Going downhill often leads to natural drainage gullies, which typically have very thick bush, expansive cliffs and waterfalls, making travel and searching more difficult. Staying put reduces the potential search area for SAR, because you will have left a trip plan with a friend, and they will know where to start looking.
  • Use signaling devices: Blowing a whistle, lighting a fire and staying visible will help searchers find you. Help searchers find you even if you are embarrassed or afraid. Remember that animals will not be attracted to your signals. Searchers may also use planes or helicopters – make yourself visible to them.
  • Remember that three of anything is the universal distress signal: (3 fires, 3 whistle blasts, 3 gunshots, etc.).
  • Whistle: The whistle is much louder than the voice, uses less energy, and carries over a greater distance.
  • Mirror: A signaling mirror is very effective, and is responsible for more aircraft spottings than any other device. The best is one made specifically for this purpose. It helps you “aim” your signal. You can also use the mirror on your compass.
  • Flares: A good-quality pencil flare gun can send a signal above the trees in a forested area. It is also very useful for ocean rescue. Flare visibility depends on atmospheric conditions and time of day. They should be used only when there is a high probability of being detected.
  • Fire: Besides the other survival benefits of fire, it makes a very effective signal. The smoke is visible from a long way. A signal fire should be very smoky, and is most effective if you actually build three fires in a triangular pattern at least 30m apart.
  • A cautionary note on fires: even in an emergency, you want to keep a fire under control. Don’t make matters worse by starting a forest fire. It is good to keep a supply of water or sand on hand, and to build your fire directly on mineral soil or on a base of green logs. Don’t build your fire right under a tree as the sparks might ignite the branches.
  • Orange tarp or blanket: The reason your personal emergency shelter should be orange is for the visibility.
  • Symbols: Made of rocks, sticks, or drawn in the sand or soil, an “SOS” or large “X” or arrow can be very helpful, especially for air searches. Remember to make these symbols in an open area where they can best be seen. If an aircraft is overhead, you can make yourself be seen better by lying down with outstretched arms and legs (make yourself look “big”).
  • Importance of helping searchers: Children have reported the scary “one-eyed giants” (searchers with headlamps) that walked by them at night while they hid. People also talk of being very embarrassed and don’t answer calls. The importance of helping in your own rescue is clear. Even if your pride is hurt, be a survivor!
  • Build or seek shelter: Protect yourself from the rain, wind and excessive sun. Be as comfortable as possible, but when it is daylight make sure you are visible to searchers in helicopters or planes. This is very important and can be as simple as a plastic bag with hole for your face, a tarp, a snow cave, or a lean-to constructed with branches.
  • It is most important to stay dry and to insulate from the cold ground. This is also possible using branches, leaves, etc. It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to stay dry – this is essential for avoiding heat loss from the body!
  • The most common mistake: is an individual’s belief that “it could never happen to me” is summed up as ego. By being prepared, you can enjoy your trip outdoors regardless of what nature throws at you! Ego plays into embarrassment, which will cause some people to try desperately to get out on their own, rather than wait for searchers. This results in increasing the search area, using up the body’s fuel supply and can end up in injuries in the panicked attempt to get out.


James Graham, a long-time forester and a member of Kettle Valley, Britich Columbia SAR, has spent many years working in the bush and spends a lot of time in trail-less wilderness. When asked about his favorite survival equipment, he responded, “Unquestionably navigation equipment and knowledge (a compass, topographic map, altimeter, watch and thorough knowledge on how to use them). This equipment and knowledge has saved me from becoming lost on countless occasions when I am many kilometres away from the nearest road or vehicle. Knowing, at all times, where you are in relation to your point of commencement is, in my opinion, the most crucial factor in avoiding an unpleasant or life threatening experience in the outdoors.”

His many years of experience and his own close calls substantiate his choices.

“I have spent unplanned nights out in the woods in wet and cold conditions. I have become temporarily lost on numerous occasions. I have been injured in the woods many kilometres from help. On every occasion, I have been able to rescue myself with the use of my compass, map and altimeter. I have also been involved in searching for lost persons.”

He also gives us some navigation tips:

  • The “handrail” concept is crucial. This concept is to keep a linear feature in the terrain that parallels the direction you are traveling in sight to help you navigate.
  • It is essential to maintain a true sense of where you have been and where you are going in relation to your starting point and the map you are carrying. This requires constant use of your map, compass and altimeter throughout the day as it can be very difficult to locate yourself on your map if you lose your sense of where you are, particularly if you are under full canopy closure in the woods.
  • An altimeter watch will enable you to know approximately where you are even if visibility drops to zero, at least on an elevation line to narrow down the possibilities from many to a few.
  • Never rely solely on GPS electronics due to the risk of equipment failure.

It is important to recognize that electronic devices do not replace being prepared for an emergency and filing a trip plan.

A SAR volunteer recalls a summer working at a park with a popular backcountry hut. A group had hiked in that day, planning on staying at the hut. They were slow, and as darkness fell, they saw a sign for an emergency campsite. Thinking they were still far from the hut, they slept there. They had sleeping bags, but no tent.

The next day, when they got to the hut after ten minutes of hiking, they were furious because there had been no sign telling them that they were so close to the hut. They were frustrated that they could have stayed in a warm hut instead of camping out. I asked them if they had a map with them. Yes, they did. “Well,” I said, “if you would have looked at it you would have known just how close the hut was.” That’s what I mean about knowing how to use the tools you have.

“Don’t depend on gadgets. A lot of gadgets have been found on bodies.”

SAR in Canada

In Canada, the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for search and rescue; each has authority within its own jurisdiction and they collectively make up the National Search and Rescue Program.

The National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) is responsible for National SAR Program policy, planning, coordination and reporting. There are three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs) established to coordinate response to both aeronautical and marine search and rescue incidents. (JRCCs) responded to over 10,000 incidents in 2012. While the incidents varied in severity, approximately 25,000 persons received some form of assistance.

The largest jurisdiction for ground and inland water search and rescue in Canada is that of the provinces and territories. The level of government involvement varies across the country, but many emergency measures organizations are actively involved in SAR program coordination, training, and evaluation. The responsibility for front-line SAR operations is generally delegated by provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to their respective police service of jurisdiction.

Parks Canada is responsible for providing ground and inland water search and rescue services within park boundaries. There are over 5,000 ground SAR incidents each year in Canada.

While the nature and location of a SAR incident determines responsibility, SAR is frequently multi-jurisdictional. Provincial and territorial SAR resources often provide an important complement to federal assets because many aeronautical and marine SAR cases require the assistance of land-based resources. Conversly, federal resources often assist during ground and inland water SAR incidents as well, providing the best possible resources to help those in need.

Volunteers are fundamental to the search and rescue system in Canada. They provide a trained and organized resource that is often called upon in SAR operations, and they help raise awareness to prevent SAR incidents among the general population. Ground search and rescue volunteers are organized into accredited teams and, in many cases, provincial associations. The national-level body which represents ground and inland SAR volunteers is the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC).

These volunteers support police and emergency measures organizations with both front line response and with delivering community-based awareness programs aimed at preventing SAR incidents.

Volunteer responders donated over 400,000 hours of their time on callouts and an astounding 95% of the subjects were found in the first 24 hours.

In an emergency

Don't Panic

Stay calm and maintain a positive attitude.


Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

Stay Put

It reduces time and search area for the authorities looking for you.

Seek Shelter

Protect yourself from the elements by staying warm and dry.

Signal for Help

Think BIG, Think CONTRAST, Think 3’s. Use whistle blasts x 3, mirror flashes x 3, horn blasts x 3, signal fires x 3 or rock piles x 3 to signal distress. Create a ground-to-air symbol by making the letter “V” or “SOS”, at least 3 meters in length.

Safety Topics

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