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Volunteer influx revives Hinton Search and Rescue

Image provided by SAR

Masha Scheele

After a few years of struggling to keep the Hinton Search and Rescue (SAR) going, they are positive to turn it around this year with a 37-member team and many upcoming training opportunities.

Due to a lack of volunteers in the past years and losing members through poor communication, Hinton SAR wasn’t doing well, according to Heather Sauvé, newly elected executive president of Hinton SAR.

“People move away, or get different interests and sometimes it’s family, you get kids. People start when they’re single and then they get kids and life just happens, which we totally understand. Or they get a promotion and their volunteer world is what they have to let go of a bit,” said Sauvé.

“Your family is what gives you the ability to go out and do these things, so it’s family first.”

Roughly 30 new people joined the seven-member team this year, from all different walks of life and a wide range in ages. SAR is a completely volunteer-operated search and rescue association, part of the Alberta SAR who provide search and rescue assistance to people lost or injured in the outdoors, and emergency services in times of natural disaster across Alberta.

“Hinton SAR is being ‘reborn’ and having that many people to jumpstart and revive this team is simply awesome,” said Sauvé.

Hinton SAR is on-call 24 hours a day and respond immediately when deployed by Hinton RCMP or the Fire Department in things like search and rescue for lost hikers, campers, and skiers to children and Alzheimer’s patients.

Hinton RCMP and Fire attended the Hinton SAR Annual General Meeting (AGM) on June 27, and hope to continue working together and learn from each other throughout the next year.

“The best way to learn in search and rescue is to get the people out there and show them what they need to do. Put them with seasoned people, the older members, and get them searching. Hands-on is a great thing,” said Sauvé.

Sauvé said RCMP staff sergeant Chris Murphy is ready to help with training and has already offered setting up a mock search.

SAR will cross-train with the RCMP and fire department, meaning that they will attend each others training sessions and have the opportunity to learn a little bit from each group.

“To have three agencies willing to come together and work cohesively is a big step in the right direction. We all agree that communication is key to a great working relationship,” said Sauvé.

Hinton SAR hopes to have all members trained in the SAR basics course by spring 2020. Sauvé added that, in the past, the Hinton SAR has done avalanche rescues, swift water rescues, ice rescues, received helicopter training, low angle and high angle training on mountains, and she hopes to get the volunteers back to that level.

Image provided by SAR

Sauvé originally joined SAR in Barrhead nine years ago, and has worked as the Director of North Central SAR division, and the Vice President of SAR Alberta. She participated in a large search last summer for three weeks in Hinton, which showed her how Hinton can come together and gave her hope for the Hinton SAR team.

Her goal today is to get Hinton SAR back and operating to its full potential before passing on the baton to Sharlynn McDougall, current Vice President of Hinton SAR.

“Once you join, it’s in your blood and becomes your passion. Our motto is ‘so others may live.’” added Sauvé.

“I think Hinton Search and Rescue can honestly say we are excited to see what this year brings and has in store for us. We hope to serve our community with an honour like great towns like Hinton deserve,” said Sauvé.

Image provided by SAR

Anyone interested in joining HSAR can call Heather Sauvé at (780) 349-0229 or email at