Natural and human-induced hazards and disasters are increasing in number, frequency and intensity. They also very often transcend boundaries, taking on regional, national or international scope. In response to these disasters, An Emergency Management Framework for Canada recognises that emergency management is a shared responsibility and that community resilience requires contributions from whole-of-society, including the volunteer sector.
Structured volunteer organisations have been involved in Emergency Management over the years, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St. John Ambulance. More recently, ground search and rescue teams have been involved in supporting local governments not only during the response phase of a disaster but all through the cycle from prevention to recovery.
This presentation will highlight lessons learned and best practices based on the past five-year experience of Sauvetage Bénévole Outaouais - Ottawa Volunteer Search and Rescue (SBO-OVSAR) with emergency management. It will help demonstrate that the upstream integration of GSAR teams in emergency management allows local governments to benefit from a key community resource characterised, amongst others, by its flexibility; autonomy and resilience in the field; assignment planning and leadership; safety mindedness; and proven capacity to be a force multiplier. As the multi-tool of emergency management, ground search and rescue teams can provide valuable assistance including: the coordination of spontaneous volunteers; data collection in the field; wellness visits; assistance with evacuation; support for prevention programs.
With a thought to the future, the presentation will also include reflections and next steps to advance the integration of ground search and rescue into emergency management.