Search and rescue conference in Rocky Mountain House to draw hundreds

Search and rescue experts from as far as Iceland to attend September conference

Hundreds of search and rescue experts from as far away as Iceland will gather in Rocky Mountain House in September for an international conference.

It is a bit of a coup for a community the size of Rocky Mountain House to land the conference, which will include representatives from the U.S., Great Britain and other countries for three days, beginning Sept. 13.

Rocky Mountain House Search & Rescue hosted a mountain rescue conference in Nordegg last year, but this takes it to another level, said Search and Rescue Alberta president Monica Ahlstrom.

“(The conference) is quite a bit larger and focuses on all the disciplines in search and rescue — in this case, air, land and marine,” said Ahlstrom.

It will be co-hosted by the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada.

A larger roster of speakers is lined up, including a former head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, who will talk about the response to some of the natural disasters, such as hurricane Katrina, the country has faced.

Another speaker was involved in the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand last year.

Other topics to be covered include using drones in search and rescue, urban searching, how to deal with cold water and hypothermia and forensic bone identification.

There will also be plenty of hands-on training, including techniques for tracking people and helicopter rescues, which Ahlstrom’s company, Ahlstrom Air Ltd., has expertise in.

The Calgary Police Service is also planning to demonstrate its equestrian and mountain bike capabilities.

Ahlstrom said the theme of this year’s conference is wilderness search and rescue disaster response, a discipline in which the 40 or so Rocky Mountain House Search & Rescue volunteers excel.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for teams to hear about outside experiences from outside organizations and how they have dealt with search and rescue in other parts of Canada and other parts of the world.”

The event will also give local volunteers, including members of Red Deer County’s Technical Rescue Task Force, an opportunity to show off the skills they have used countless times to help people in trouble.

Funding help is expected to come from Clearwater County, the Town of Rocky Mountain House, and the federal and provincial governments. Volunteers are also doing their own fundraising.

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