SAR Numbers from other Provinces

For years I’ve been told that British Columbia has more SAR incidents than the rest of Canada combined. This sounds hard to believe, as BC has 4 million people (13% of Canada) and only comprises about 10% of the total area of Canada

As I mentioned before, I was having trouble backing this claim up because most other provinces don’t seem to make their numbers available. This could be for various reasons; tasks could be few and far between, and not deemed a large expense and so not reported. Other provinces handle SAR differently; in many cases the regional SAR teams do not have a provincial ministry responsible for training, standards and tracking incidents, so it’s impossible to have a central reporting system. Also, SAR many be considered a police jurisdiction, and historically police are not forthcoming with data.

The Data

The New Brunswick Ground SAR Association published it’s data. The report for the current year to this date indicates 79 tasks (as of the date of this article), which is small compared to BC’s 1100(approximately). Even if you factor out the air incidents (those incidents where CASARA went looking for a downed aircraft or an ELT, 62 incidents), and inland water (any incident occurring in a lake, river or inland waterway, 283 incidents), that still leaves 755 incidents in the same period of time.*

I recently contacted a representative of the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC) and asked if they maintained statistics for SAR incidents in Canada, and could they provide a breakdown by province. I received the following data for the years 2008 and 2009:

2008

2009

Incidents

1500

1851

Hours

250000

160760

Community Hours

8300

7300

Training/Admin

83000

57000

Total Hours

341300

225000

There is no breakdown by province. I can however, try to factor out what portion of these tasks are from BC.

Here are the numbers for British Columbia for that period**:

2008

2009

2 year avg

All Incidents

1043

1125

1084

Air

84

80

82

Inland Water

228

213

220

Ground

726

829

777

Ocean

5

2

3.5

% of all Tasks

69.5%

60.8%

64.7%

% excluding Air

63.6%

56.3%

59.5%

Averaged over the two years for which I have data, BC accounts for 64.7% of all SAR incidents in Canada, or if the Air incidents are excluded 59.5%, so the information that I’ve been told is correct; BC has more SAR tasks than the rest of Canada combined. In fact, some SAR teams in BC have more tasks than some other provinces (based on New Brunswick’s published numbers).

Analysis

I think the question as to why BC has more SAR incidents than the rest of Canada combined is one that will require much more research than this simple blog post. I can speculate, but without numbers to back me up it’s not worth much.

It doesn’t seem likely that people in BC are more accident prone. It could be that BC offers a wider variety of recreational activities. It might be useful to compare a sub-selection of the incidents that are comparable across provinces, for instance ATV accidents in Ontario and BC should be similar. Mountain and snow related accidents however would be difficult to compare, as no other place in Canada seems to have the mountainous terrain so close to population centers as BC does, and the density of ski resorts is pretty much without compare.

If anyone knows of any research comparing recreational activities between provinces that could explain the discrepancy, please contact me or comment below.

Notes

* – Anyone comparing my numbers with the PEP Incident Summaries should realize that for some reason PEP tracks tasks using a start date of April 1st. Using the InfoSAR Project, I can search by any date range for a yearly breakdown

** – data derived by querying InfoSAR for the period of Jan 1st to Dec 31st if each year inclusive, data source BC Provincial Emergency Program.

Posted in Blog Entry, Essay Tagged with: , ,
2 comments on “SAR Numbers from other Provinces
  1. Maurie says:

    Hi Michael! Love your articles – thank you so much! Just wanted to provide the reason we track from April 1 to Mar 31. It’s the provincial fiscal year.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "SAR Numbers from other Provinces"
  1. […] own SAR conference, I realized that I should probably get on with it and organize one. After all, BC has more SAR tasks than the rest of Canada combined, and we have more than enough to talk about that is BC specific. So I put the idea forward to a […]

  2. […] could not help but wonder if this is at all related to the fact that BC has more SAR incidents than the rest of Canada combined, or stated another way more than half of the ground SAR incidents in Canada happen in […]

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