Raymond Roach, Alphonse Cormier, Patrick Leblanc and Gerard Poirier during the early years of Cheticamp Search and Rescue.
Recherche et Sauvetage Cheticamp Search & Rescue is inviting the community, past and present volunteers, partners, other regional search teams, and potential volunteers to an open house event in celebration of 50 years of service. The open house will take place on December 14th from 1:00 – 3:00pm at the Search and Rescue hall, 17 Cemetery Rd, Cheticamp.
Cheticamp Search and Rescue (SAR) was formed in 1972 following a tragic death that occurred in Grand Étang when a member of the community was lost during a snowstorm. Since that time, the organization has been the primary response team for local searches, responding to hundreds of incidents, in a region that includes parts of both Inverness and Victoria Counties. As part of a network of Search and Rescue teams across the province, the Cheticamp SAR organization also responds to calls outside their designated search zone. The organization is run entirely by dedicated community volunteers who play important roles in coordinating with partners, setting up command post communications at sites, and providing search teams.
Command post vehicle used as a communications and logistical center in the early 1990s.
Although 50 years is a major milestone in itself, Cheticamp SAR has even more reason to celebrate. Three volunteers in the organization are being recognized for 50 years of service, and may be the only search and rescue volunteers across Canada with that distinction. Roger Larade, Patrick LeBlanc, and Leo LeFort are still active in Cheticamp SAR and have been involved since 1972.
Leo Lefort talks about the early days:“The first president was the late Winston Merry, with Joe Gullena, Ray Gorrie, Eric Langley, Robert MacDonald, John MacLeod, and Kevin Withrow attending the first meeting. Things looked very different back then compared to today. Compasses, which have always been critical for searchers, were sold for only $11.40 in 1972, and other equipment that was fundraised for was stored in the basement of the RCMP station. After a few years, the organization acquired the old Belle Marche School for meetings, training, and other operations, and eventually purchased an old school bus that was used in evacuation exercises, and radios for communications.”
Cheticamp SAR continued to grow over the years and in 1989 members started planning for a new building. Land was cleared and the current hall was built by community volunteers in 1991. Shortly after this time more specialized training was offered, including cliff rescue, with exercises conducted with Parks Canada. Although compasses continued to be a main part of searches, GPS technology was adopted and has been a critical part of the command centre and the work of search teams. Long standing, important partnerships have been in place with the RCMP, Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue Association, Nova Scotia Power, Parks Canada, and other regional search teams.
Search work often involves thoroughly looking for clues in designated areas to help establish where a missing person might be. Patrick Leblanc, talks about the diversity of searches: “One thing that people don’t realize is that not everyone that is lost wants to be found. We are not only called out when hunters or hikers are lost or injured in the woods, or to search the shorelines when people are lost at sea, but also when police want to look for evidence, or when people go into hiding, or are dealing with mental health issues”.
Undoubtedly, the men and women that volunteer for the organization have been critical to its success over many years. The volunteer services that have been provided by the small community of Cheticamp have had a significant impact beyond the region it serves, and community support through donations has been critical.
Fernand Larade, Clifford Lilievre, Armand Poirier, Fidel Deveau among those participating in cliff training exercises with Parks Canada.
Cheticamp SAR is also looking for new volunteers to help the organization continue to provide essential services in the local community and beyond. Volunteers can contribute in a variety of ways, including participating in searches, planning, and helping to run the technical systems as part of the command post. Cheticamp SAR offers regular training sessions and has upcoming training exercises planned for the spring. If interested and not able to attend the event on December 14 you can reach the organization at [email protected]
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