Section IV - National Search and Rescue Secretariat - DPR - 2011-12

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National Search and Rescue Secretariat

From Defence's Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) 2011-12: To support the National Search and Rescue Program (NSP) priorities, the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) undertook the following activities during fiscal year (FY) 2011-12:

1. Enhancing National Ground SAR Coordination and Results

Formalize links between the Ground SAR Council of Canada (GSARCC) and the federal/provincial/territorial emergency management framework, to leverage opportunities to collaborate and to advance key issues.

Performance Indicators:

  • An effectively and efficiently organized and administered GSAR Council;
  • Measurable progress on the implementation of GSAR Council annual and 5-Year plan; and
  • Smooth coordination between Federal/Provincial/territorial (F/P/T) partners, including Public Safety, provincial/territorial Emergency Management Organizations (EMO), RCMP, Parks Canada, and Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC).

Performance Analysis/Progress:

GSARCC transitioned to a new federal/provincial/territorial (FTP) governance framework with the NSS representing the federal government. The Sûreté du Québec was elected to be the provincial/territorial co-chair of GSARCC for a two-year term. The Council revised its meeting schedule to increase cost effectiveness and efficiencies through the use of teleconferencing and new technologies to minimize travel expenditures.

Progress continues to be made on the priorities outlined in the GSARCC five-year action plan, with progress being made in regards to the priorities of insurance and support for SAR volunteers. 10 of the 13 provincial/territorial (P/T) jurisdictions are now providing insurance support to volunteers. Several P/Ts have opted for the SARVAC insurance policy developed specifically for ground SAR volunteers, while others have sought changes to legislation to address liability issues.

Coordinating the activities of all FTP SAR partners continues to be a challenge as there has been little progress in championing GSAR within the federal SAR community. This has resulted in lost opportunities to support awareness and understanding of GSARCC activities among all partners and to fully utilize this organization to develop a national approach. As a result some GSARCC priorities such as obtaining funding to support the SARVAC continue to be on-going issues without a solution.

2. Northern SAR Strategy

Advance the Northern SAR Strategy by building on the foundations established in 2010 with the establishment of a Northern SAR Roundtable and to generating a working paper/straw-man Northern SAR Strategy for review by the Ad hoc Deputy Minister (DM) SAR Committee and Lead Minister for Search and Rescue (LMSAR) for consideration for the government's Northern Strategy.

Performance Indicators:

  • Domestic and international consultations;
  • Working group such as the Arctic Security Working Group;
  • Participating in SAR northern exercises such as Op Nanook in 2011; and
  • Provide ongoing support to the Pan Territorial SAR roundtables and the regional round table (now called the Northern SAR Roundtable) Nunavik region in Northern Quebec.

Performance Analysis/Progress:

The need for regional round table (now called the Northern SAR Roundtable) was reinforced with the support of federal and territorial members. A meeting was held in Iqaluit in June 2011 and February 2012 with active agendas. In addition to the three territories and Nunavik region represented at the Roundtable, the Nunatsiavut region (Northern Labrador) will be included in future meetings.

NSS continues to be an active participant in the Arctic Security Working Group. Members of the NSS were involved in the exercise planning component of OP Nanook 2011. The Executive Director was part of the Executive contingent at ResoluteBay, the exercise location.

In September 2011, the Interdepartmental Committee for Search and Rescue (ICSAR) determined that a Northern SAR Strategy was no longer required. In its place, the NSS was asked to develop an outline of a communication document regarding SAR in the North for ICSAR review and approval.

3. Promote the Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund

Promote the Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SAR NIF) and undertake consultation on SAR NIF Design and Process.

Performance Indicators:

  • Open and transparent submission, evaluation and approval process for SAR NIF Proposals;
  • A selection of projects that are aligned with the objectives of the National SAR Program annual priorities;
  • An effectively managed fund;
  • Dissemination of information on project results;
  • Permanent staffing based on new organizational structure;
  • Clear annual reporting to Parliament; and
  • Initiate the review of the NIF life cycle for improvement of program efficiency.

Performance Analysis/Progress:

During FY 2011-12 the NSS successfully managed and administered the SAR NIF merit process to determine its funding activities for FY 2012-13. In total 19 new projects were approved for funding by the LMSAR. The process was managed in an open and transparent manner, with the new projects addressing one or more of the National SAR Program's 5 annual priorities. The approved SAR NIF merit list for fiscal year 2011-12 was posted on the NSS website.

All ongoing projects approved in previous years were effectively funded and managed by the NSS. At the beginning of FY 2011-12 the NSS had 24 ongoing projects and 16 new projects began receiving funding as of April 2011.

The SAR NIF team is fully staffed as a result of a formal competitive staffing process. The vacant AS-04 position with the SAR NIF team was staffed on an indeterminate basis in January 2012.

All SAR NIF financial and program information was provided to the proper authorities via the appropriate reporting documents.

During the past FY, the NSS held an initial meeting to begin consulting on alternative evaluation methods. Discussions were held with NSS senior management and SAR NIF partners to optimize the program efficiency.

4. Renewal of NSS Website

Continue renewing the NSS website to improve the availability and accessibility of search and rescue information.

Performance Indicators:

  • Maintenance and development of the NSS Web Site;
  • Maintenance and development of the SARSCENE Web site;
  • Maintenance and development of the Directory of SAR Organizations;
  • Development of new Web applications;
  • Web hosting and licensing fees

Performance Analysis/Progress:

The NSS has taken concrete steps to review, develop and improve the availability and accessibility of search and rescue information on the NSS and SARscene Web sites as well as exploring the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The NSS has also taken steps to modernize the NSS Web site to conform to the current Government of Canada web accessibility and usability standards.

The NSS, as part of the review of SAR information assets, decided to decommission the online Directory of SAR Organizations as the information is now readily and accurately available on the various organizations Web sites. It was also determined that the Directory posed a potential risk to the NSS and the SAR system through the inappropriate use of the contact information for emergency purposes, which was not the intended purpose of the Directory. Emergency calls should be directed to one of the three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres for air and marine incidents and to 911 for ground and inland water incidents which are monitored 24/7.


Serve as the head of the Canadian delegation and co-ordinate/represent the operational, technical and administrative positions of Canada at COSPAS-SARSAT meetings. The NSS will also support the COSPAS-SARSAT programme in the maintenance of the LEOSAR system, in the demonstration and evaluation phase of the MEOSAR Implementation Plan and in the development of the Beacon Implementation Plan.

Performance Indicators:

  • Delivery of Canada's obligations under the International COSPAS-SARSAT Program Agreement (ICSPA);
  • Lead and Chair the Canadian delegation at Council meetings (Open and Closed) and chair the Joint Committee meeting;
  • Representation by appropriate experts of Canadian position at COSPAS-SARSAT meetings;
  • Partnership consensus on Canada's position on COSPAS-SARSAT issues;
  • Monitoring and reporting on technological developments in new satellite constellations and beacon technology;
  • Attendance at meetings of MEOSAR/COSPAS-SARSAT Experts Working Group (EWG), chairing as required;
  • Presentation of recommendations and updates to ICSAR for information/approval;
  • Coordination of interdepartmental and central agency communication as required; and
  • Coordination of international communication, correspondence and agreements as required.

Performance Analysis/Progress:

Canada continues to meet its obligations to the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue Programme (COSPAS-SARSAT). Specifically, the provision of Canadian LEOSAR repeater payloads is on schedule and Canada is developing a procurement strategy to provide MEOSAR repeaters to the USAF SAR/GPS program.

There were no actions or decisions required from ICSAR during FY 2011-12. ICSAR members continue to be informed of activities related to COSPAS-SARSAT when required.

As the Head of the Canadian delegation (Candel), the NSS attended all COSPAS-SARSAT meetings. During FY 2011-12 the NSS chaired a number of meetings including two Closed Council, an Open Council and the intercessional Council meeting.

The NSS recruited the appropriate technical and operational expertise to the Candel attending COSPAS-SARSAT meetings. This included providing chairs for the Experts Working Group (EWG) on Second Generation Beacon implementation and the Task Group (TC) on MEOSAR Demonstration and Evaluation plan, and negotiating the consensus of the stakeholders within Candel.

The NSS successfully coordinated interdepartmental discussions in preparation and debriefing for the Experts Working Group, Task Group, Joint Committee (JC) and Council meetings.

The NSS coordinated international correspondence with the USA, France and Russia to successfully broker a technical solution to an impasse amongst the Parties regarding the delivery and receipt of messages for all 406 MHz beacons.

6. National Beacon Awareness Strategy

Continue implementing a multi-pronged National Beacon Awareness Strategy to focus on information and awareness building around Canada's distress alerting system.

Performance Indicators:

  • Direct outreach with aviation, marine and recreationalist communities;
    • Exhibiting at various conferences and trade shows;
    • Presentations at flight schools, clubs, meetings and conferences.
  • Development of supporting communications products;
  • Data collection and statistics;
  • Campaign Evaluation

Performance Analysis/Progress:

As part of the final year of a five year National Beacon Awareness Strategy, the NSS focused on developing strategic relationships with our SAR partners and key stakeholders to ensure the continued delivery of alerting technology messaging and outreach into the future.

During this reporting period, the NSS amalgamated beacon awareness outreach with the AdventureSmart Program. This incorporation has resulted in the increased capacity for direct outreach with the aviation, marine and outdoor recreationalist communities. As a result, through AdventureSmart Program outreach, the NSS and its partners delivered alerting technology awareness messaging at more than 22 events in 9 provinces and territories. In addition, we have further enhanced the capacity of our SAR partners, the Canadian Forces (CF), Transport Canada (TC), Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), to deliver presentations and briefing on alerting technologies with ready to go presentation and communication materials.

To support the additional outreach, the NSS has increased the supply of ready to go communication products adequate for the next two to three years as well as increasing the availability of data on the NSS Website such as registered 406 MHz emergency beacons in the Canadian Beacon Registry. The NSS is also working on providing greater information on all types of alerting technologies currently available on the market as well as exploring ways to supply various technology performance data.

The impact of these efforts has resulted in the increased use of alerting technology by a more informed consumer which in turn improves SAR notification and response, ultimately saving lives.

7. National SAR Prevention Strategy

Continue developing a comprehensive National SAR Prevention Strategy focused on broad public awareness and targeted outreach to reduce the number and severity of SAR incidents.

Performance Indicators:

  • Increase the role and influence of the Prevention WG;
  • Maintain support for AdventureSmart rollout;
  • Initiate discussions with aviation and marine communities on aligning prevention activities using broad public awareness and targeted outreach.

Performance Analysis/Progress:

The prevention working group convened in October 2011 to focus solely on Marine SAR Prevention. Members of the group were briefed on the success of AdventureSmart for land-based activities through concise messaging to the public. The working group supported the use of AdventureSmart as a single medium of communication to reach the general public and the Canadian boating community.

The NSS maintained its AdventureSmart partnerships with Parks Canada and SARVAC for the delivery of prevention program while, new partnerships were forged with Paddle Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA). As a result over 20,000 participants across Canada received targeted outreach programs and more than 500,000 were provided with SAR prevention messaging. Broad public awareness at various venues by multiple partners emphasized both AdventureSmart – trip planning, training and the essentials as well as the capabilities of the SAR system and the need for timely alerting of the Canadian SAR system.

Collectively the NSS and its AdventureSmart partners delivered the outreach program at numerous symposiums, public events, conventions, and trade shows across Canada. These included MEC Paddlefest (Toronto), Calgary Boat and Sportsmen Show (Calgary), Vancouver Outdoor Adventure Show (Vancouver), Saskatoon Sports and Leisure Show (Saskatoon) and the Halifax Boat Show (Halifax) and many local events.

The NSS discussed the potential benefits of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) participating in prevention activities under the National SAR Program. The discussions resulted in the development of a successful SAR NIF proposal to provide online awareness tools for recreational pilots known as SmartPilot.

Financial Resources
Financial resources
($ thousands)
Actual Spending 2009-10 Actual Spending 2010-11 Planned Spending 2011-12 Total Authorities 2011-12 Actual Spending 2011-12
Vote 1 - Salary and Personnel 1,909 1,856 1,802 1,725 1,718
Vote 1 - Operating and Maintenance 1,695 836 1,122 1,039 1,016
Sub-total Vote 1 3,604 2,692 2,924 2,763 2,733
Vote 5 - Capital 6 93 50 54 51
Vote 10 – Grants and Contributions 5,874 4,218 5,994 5,894 5,891
Grand total 9,484 7,003 8,968 8,711 8,676

Source: National Search and Rescue Secretariat and Assistant Deputy Minister (Finance and Corporate Services) Groups

* Due to rounding, figures may not add up to totals shown.

Notes: The difference between Planned Spending and Actual Spending for FY 2011-12 is due to the following:

  1. Salary and Personnel – The $84k variance is due to an inability to staff positions resulting from the impacts of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan.
  2. Operating and Maintenance – The $106k variance is due to projects delayed from lack of resources, projects completed under budget, and suppliers unable to deliver goods and services on time.
  3. Grants and Contributions – The $103k variance is due to Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund contribution projects delayed because of lack of key personnel resources.
Human Resources
Regular Force Structure 1 1 1 1
Civilian FTEs 21 24 23 19.6
Primary Reserve Strength (Class C) 1 1 0.75 0.6
On-site professional services contractors 1 0.7 0 1.5
TOTAL 24 26.7 24.75 22.7

Source: National Search and Rescue Secretariat

Notes: The difference between planned and actual human resources for FY 2011-12 is due to the following:

  1. The NSS planned for 23 Civilian FTEs, however only 20 of the 23 positions had been fully staffed to year-end, with 2 vacancies and 1 staff on long-term disability. The NSS anticipates that 2 Civilian FTE positions to be staffed in FY 2012-13 with 1 position being eliminated.
  2. Due to the inability to maintain full staffing levels, on-site professional services contractors were hired to provide support in FY 2010-11.

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