After an intense 4 day course (two of those days were 13 hours long), I’ve managed to pass the SAR Manager’s evaluation and exam.
People came from all over BC: from as far north as Stewart, BC where the SAR team is just over a year old, has had two searches so far and now has 2 SAR managers, and as far west as West Coast Inland SAR (based in the Tofino – Ucluelet area).
One of the more interesting parts of the course is the table-top scenario. The scenario starts on day one of the course and involves a typical missing hiker. It takes place in a simulation room where the management team is made up of the students in the course, and the instructors play the parts of witnesses, police, or anyone else we would care to call or contact. The students each rotate through the roles of Manager, Operations, Logistics, Planning and Finance. We plan the search, dispatch the teams, receive information from witnesses, police, and field teams, and coordinate resources such as food, water, lodging, and transportation.
And then the kicker – half way through the scenario, we switch with another team in another room running a different scenario. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, because even though there are standardized forms, map symbols, processes and the like for managing the search, each team develops it’s own system and placement for these forms. This part of the scenario is clearly designed to demonstrate to the class the importance of being organized, because in a large search the management team does change every 6 to 12 hours.
A very interesting part of the course, as with most courses, is talking with SAR members from all over the province. In a course like this it’s usually members with quite a few years of experience, so some amazing stories of tragedy and triumph were told. In particular the instructors of the course brought with them many years of SAR management experience with them.
I’d like to point out that these people represent the subject matter experts for ground Search and Rescue for BC, and because BC has more SAR incidents than the rest of Canada combined, they’re probably the best at what they do in all of Canada. It was an honour to be taught by them, and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to learn from their experience.