F.A.Q. – Our members answer your frequently asked questions
How do I get involved?
There are lots of ways to get involved with your local RCM-SAR station!
The first step is to contact your local RCM-SAR Station Leader or Recruitment Coordinator . They will tell you about their application process and answer your questions.
Ways to contact your local station:
- Drop us an email. Most stations will have an info email inbox monitored for general inquiries. You can also contact our Regional Office at firstname.lastname@example.org and request contact information for the RCM-SAR Station closest to your community.
- Check out your local station’s Facebook page or web site.
- Ask a current RCM-SAR member in your community.
- Watch for recruiting sessions offered by your local station.
Each station will have different needs for volunteers. Roles include:
SAR crew member – this requires a vigorous training period of 3-6 months with a minimum 2-3 year volunteer commitment depending on the station. You will need to be available on call. These on call requirements vary by community and number of volunteers (average 1-2 days a week), but all stations have a minimum requirement of 20 hours sea time per year to retain active status. In order to be an effective volunteer and team member you’ll need to keep up your training, and we prefer to see closer to 60+ hours of training annually).
Other volunteer areas – we are a not for profit organization and each station needs lots of support to keep its boats and crews ready. Your station could use your skills in:
- Special projects
- Recruitment and Marketing
- Community events
- SAR Prevention (boating safety)
I look forward to you joining us!
Amber Sheasgreen – Crewmember RCM-SAR Station #64 Prince Rupert
What does an RCM-SAR crewmember do?
We’re here to help people who get in trouble on the water. I never know what to expect when I get a call. It could involve first aid, finding someone lost in the fog, towing a broken down vessel, or doing a shoreline search for somebody who has gone missing. We have to train hard for all those scenarios, but it keeps the job really interesting.
I’m on call for 3 shifts or more during a week depending on how many other crew members are available at my station. I’m ready to be paged out at any time. That means I need to stay within a few minutes of the rescue boat when I’m on call. We aim to get our crews to the boat and be launched within 15 minutes of a tasking, because sometimes seconds matter.
We don’t just respond to emergencies. We promote safe boating, we talk to kids about staying safe around the water, and we support our local community with special events. There’s always lots to be done to keep a rescue station up and running. It’s really rewarding.
Jason van der Valk – Coxswain RCM-SAR Station #37 Sooke
Do I need to be on a search and rescue crew?
No. There are many ways you can support us. For example, here in the Okanagan we have Station 101 in Vernon. Since 2004 our focus has been to promote boating safety to both the boating community and public at large.
We deliver that message on the water and provide a visible presence on weekends between May and October on Okanagan Lake. Our role is not Search and Rescue. We want to prevent the need for search and rescue. Last year our members conducted more than 135 on-water Vessel Safety Survey checks and shore-based Pleasure Craft Safety Checks. We enjoy our many interactions with boaters, and have helped with emergency fuel, battery jump-starts, and other assistance.
Like all RCM-SAR Stations, we need volunteers to bring their skills to our team. Whether it’s sharing our boating safety message with the public or helping behind the scenes to keep a station running smoothly, there are lots of interesting roles available. And there’s no better team to work with!
Bob Montguire – Station Leader RCM-SAR Station #101 Vernon
What kind of boats do you have?
We have a range of rescue vessels designed to meet the needs of the coastal and lake communities we serve. Some of our stations use Zodiac or similar “Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats” (RHIBs), which are a proven search and rescue workhorse. They are tough and versatile. The tubes on the side provide extra flotation and shock absorbency in heavy seas.
Recently we designed two new classes of vessels specifically for RCM-SAR. The Type 1 vessel is a large RHIB with a new shock-absorbing seating platform. Our Type 2 “Falkins Class” vessels are the largest in the fleet. They have enclosed cabins and are powered by jet drives, making them highly manoeuvrable. They can turn on their own axis and travel sideways. They have lots of room for first aid equipment and other search and rescue gear.
Paul Mottershead – Coxswain RCM-SAR Station #27 Nanaimo
What do you wear on a call?
What I wear depends on the boat, the conditions, and what we’re doing. Usually on a mission I’ll wear a flotation suit . If I’m in an open boat in rough weather I’ll wear a waterproof “dry suit”.
I wear a helmet for safety. Our modern rescue helmets have inflatable liners which makes them warm and comfortable.
I wear a SAR vest with personal safety gear. The vest has a built-in inflatable collar for extra flotation. I just pull a tab and a compressed air cartridge inflates the collar. I have a handheld marine radio, an emergency strobe light, a whistle, some first aid gloves, a waterproof notebook, and an emergency knife for cutting lines (or fighting sea monsters).
RCM-SAR provides all this gear. It can cost up to $2,000 to outfit one of our members. That’s why your donation really helps. Thanks!
Julie Williams – Crewmember RCM-SAR Station #35 Victoria
What is the training like?
The level of training that we receive is unparalleled. The training starts before you even step on the boat. Each member is trained in first aid, has a basic Pleasure Craft Operator Card, and obtains a Radio Operator’s Certificate – Maritime. These basic qualifications prepare you for your first on-water training sessions. Depending on your availability, you can train on weeknights, during the day or on weekends. Or all of the above, as our rescue vessels can be on the water several times a week. In addition, stations usually provide classroom training weekly or monthly, focusing on SAR techniques, seamanship, first aid, and maritime collision regulations (the “rules of the road”).
Once you have completed certain training you will be considered for specialized courses like Marine Advanced First Aid, SARNAV-1 and SARNAV-2 (both exclusive RCM-SAR courses) and RCM-SAR coxswain training.
I’ve really enjoyed my training at RCM-SAR, and because our training is standardized I know that when I work with members from other stations we will have similar skills and techniques. Our training is world class and one of the most rewarding things we do as volunteers.
Matthew Kerr – Crewmember RCM-SAR Station #33 Oak Bay
Where does RCM-SAR get its money?
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue is a Registered Charity in British Columbia. Our funding comes from several sources:
- Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Canadian Coast Guard for on-water emergency response and crew readiness training.
- Corporate donations for training and development of infrastructure at our regional training facility.
- Province of British Columbia Community Gaming Grants for vessels, boating safety programs and a wide range of search and rescue equipment.
- Specific project grants from a variety of sources.
- Individuals who contribute to rescue stations in their community or to the RCM-SAR training centre.
We are careful stewards of the funding that we receive to support our volunteers, and we are very proud of our track record as an efficient and effective non-profit organization. Our audited financial statements are available in our annual report.
Laura Davis – Finance Officer, RCM-SAR Head Office
Are you part of the Canadian Coast Guard?
No, we’re not part of the Canadian Coast Guard, although we work closely with them.
We used to be known as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, and many people assumed we were part of the Coast Guard even though we have always been a separate organization. Our new name helps to clear up that confusion.
We receive great support from the Coast Guard, including some funding for training and missions. Our coxswains train at the Coast Guard’s demanding Rigid Hull Inflatable Operator Training (RHIOT) school in Bamfield. We receive our search and rescue taskings from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, which is jointly operated by the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard. When we’re on a call we communicate with Coast Guard staff at the Marine Traffic and Communications Services centres. And we’re always looking for opportunities to train with the Coast Guard so that we’re an effective partnership on the water.
So while we’re not part of Coast Guard, we have lots of connections with them and share a common goal of public safety on the water.
Cheryl Caldwell – RCM-SAR Director of Training and Operations