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SAR continues to build membership, momentum

Masha Scheele

What a difference a year makes as Hinton Search and Rescue (SAR) heads into its annual general meeting March 12.

The once struggling organization has turned a 180 into a functioning team with 25 certified members.

Sharlynn McDougall, Hinton SAR vice-president, stated that without the support from the community and local businesses this training would not have been possible.

Past executive president Heather Sauvé said the group is diverse and dynamic.

“Everybody is from all walks of life and they all seem to come together with that one interest and it’s pretty awesome to sit back and see how everyone works together,” Sauvé said.

Each new member completed the SAR Basics course in October 2019 where they were trained how to survive outdoors in the cold temperatures overnight.

The SAR basics also included how to perform different types of searches based on the area in question and how much ground needs to be covered. On top of that, members partake in monthly training nights and mock searches to enhance their knowledge and skills. 

This training can be anything from learning how to work with ropes to mapping and survival skills.

Since their last AGM in June 2019, they’ve been called out on two separate calls by the RCMP.

Other SAR members around Alberta accompanied the team with one of the call outs. The team has worked out an efficient system in communicating information and getting the volunteers ready to go out on calls.

McDougall added that the system they have works seamlessly and they’ve successfully distributed assignments for the callouts.

“Hinton SAR is eager to continue this partnership with the RCMP, Fire and other SAR teams in the upcoming years,” McDougall stated.

Hinton SAR is on-call 24-hours a day and respond immediately when deployed by RCMP or the fire department in things like search and rescue for lost hikers, campers, skiers or children.

“We have rebuilt the communication lines with RCMP and Hinton Fire Department,” McDougall added.

They hope the SAR team can join the fire crew in the future for some training in areas like swift water rescues. SAR has also applied for a search manager course through a government grant, which would allow them to join the police and fire crew for training. Currently, SAR has just two search managers.

The RCMP has also asked SAR to participate in a missing person mock scenario together with RCMP officers and members of the Hinton Fire Department, in order to see how they work together.

Originally this was planned to happen before a callout, but members were happy to assist in the real deal before the mock scenario could take place.

SAR also hopes to bring the adventure smart program to local schools before the end of the year.

“I currently have a request in, to take the training to then provide it to schools, girl guides, etc.  The Hug a Tree program is for k-5. Snow safety is for grades 4-6, Survival outside is for 12-99 years old. I will be focusing on the hug-a-tree program,” McDougall said.

The program will teach kids what to do if they ever find themselves lost out in the bush.

Anyone is welcome to attend the AGM at the fire hall March 12 at 7 pm. To become a SAR member, a criminal record check is needed, followed by the SAR basics training and a first aid certification.

Anyone interested in joining SAR can contact Sharlynn McDougall at (780) 817-8592 or