Finding a downed aircraft as quickly as possible can help save lives.
That was the message at the Western Canada Search and Rescue Exercise, which is being hosted by the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) Red Deer Zone until Sunday out of the Red Deer Airport.
The plan was to simulate a lost aircraft mission Saturday, but smoky conditions prevented CASARA members from taking to the sky.
Jim Thoreson, CASARA zone training officer for Central Alberta, said despite not getting to do drills in the air, attendees learned a lot.
“Anytime we learn something, it’s a success. That’s what this is all about,” Thoreson said. “It’s a good get-together where we can rub shoulders with people from other parts of the country and exchange experiences and stories.”
About 85 people from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia were registered for the event.
Instead of air drills, attendees received ground and computer training.
“We’re going to boost our knowledge and efficiency,” Thoreson said. “We’ll talk about different courses to hone in on transmitters and how to approach scenes, triage people and get them the help they need.”
Saturday began with a weather briefing and exercise instructions at the Harvard Park officer’s mess building by the airport.
Training sessions like this are important for search and rescue crews, Thoreson added.
“Quite often people’s lives depend on what we’re doing,” he said. “If they’re down … from a plane crash and we have to go find them, we need to find them quickly because there could be dead people or seriously hurt people.”
George Beatteay, search and rescue technician at Combat Support Squadron 417 in Cold Lake, said it’s important the military and CASARA to work together.
“Canada is a huge country with lots of open space, so it’s going to require a lot of assets to locate a missing plane or missing person,” said Beatteay.
Beattey said there are many things the two sides should know about each other before working together on a search.
“It’s about knowing the frequencies, each other’s rules and regulations, limitations and capabilities of the aircrafts and weather they can fly in. That way we aren’t fumbling around,” he said.