Members meet twice a month to work on developing and maintaining technical and SAR team skills. Training is aimed at both providing new Members in Training (MITs) with fundamental skills (e.g. map and compass, search procedures, avalanche rescue), while allowing existing Members to practice and stay up to date on acquired skills and industry knowledge.

More experienced Members, particularly those with industry level credentials (e.g. outdoor professionals, Search Managers and Avalanche Technicians) enrich these exercises with their knowledge and experience. Due to the high level of internal expertise, the NSAR team works closely together to set up trainings that allow all Members to practice skills through both teaching and learning opportunities that enable knowledge to transfer between Team Members.

Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) Certification

GSAR is a requirement for all Search and Rescue Team Members province wide. The program is completed by MITs during their initial year with NSAR.

The intent of this course is to provide participants with the skills necessary to safely and efficiently function in a SAR operation. The course covers the theory and skills associated with:

  • SAR in BC
  • Search initiation, progression, termination
  • Map and compass
  • Backcountry survival
  • SAR communication procedures and processes
  • Rope skills
  • Orientation and tracking
  • Helicopter safety
  • Backcountry evacuation
  • Initial response searches
  • Sweep searches
  • Closed grid searches
  • Shoreline searches and safety

Several NSAR Members are certified as GSAR Instructors. This enables the organization to provide MITs with this required training. This Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) course is designed as 75 hours of instruction that is broken into numerous modules.

NSAR makes this training program available to MITs in an efficient manner. Rather than running weekly classroom and weekend field sessions for the GSAR certification, GSAR is combined with monthly training exercises, in addition to the GSAR specific trainings. This strategy keeps existing Team Members proficient with GSAR skills, while building training efficiencies across the organization.

Successful completion of the GSAR course consists of passing all GSAR modules. Each module includes pre-reading, in-field skills training, a written final exam, and a final field evaluation.

Other Courses

The GSAR course is an example of the courses available through the Provincial Emergency Program. Participation in these courses is free to selected Search and Rescue volunteers. However, space for courses is limited and there may also be associated travel and other costs (such as gas, food, accommodation, equipment purchases, etc). While NSAR offers a nominal travel allowance for PEP courses, members taking these courses assume responsibility for any additional expenses.

Other PEP courses include:

  • Track Aware
  • Ground Search Team Leader
  • Rope Rescue Team Member
  • Rope Rescue Team Leader
  • Search and Rescue Management
  • Swiftwater Rescue Technician
  • Organized Avalanche Rescue Team Member
  • Organized Avalanche Rescue Team Leader

Local SAR groups, such as Nelson Search and Rescue, can recommend individuals from their membership to take any of these courses. There are often requirements for each course (GSAR is always required), and selection is based on space availability, dedication, and aptitude of the member, alongside other factors.