SARMAN Volunteer Association History

Over the past 25 years, the Province of Manitoba Ground Search and Rescue resources have transformed from a virtually untrained group of volunteers, into a highly trained and dedicated volunteer network which is represented by the Search and Rescue Manitoba (SARMAN) Volunteer Association.

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Manitoba Search and Rescue response is a coordinated effort. Search and Rescue Manitoba Volunteer Association members are supported by their local police. In addition to the police support, search and rescue Manitoba is supported by the rural fire service who share training opportunities for advance rescue training, rescue equipment and training facilities. Local emergency medical responders, provincial agencies such as Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Conservation and numerous community and private organizations also support the Manitoba Search and Rescue response. Because of this partnership Search and Rescue Manitoba Volunteer Association members provide their own personal equipment but most of the vehicles and larger equipment required is supplied by the province and other government agencies. The concept of not duplicating resources, equipment and facilities required for emergency response is unique to Manitoba which makes our hybrid Fire Service/Community Volunteer structure one of the most efficient in Canada.

In 1988 The Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) D – Division, formed a partnership with the vision of developing a province wide volunteer Ground Search & Rescue network. Both parties recognized the huge gap in the provincial response system. The shared vision was that this network would initially be developed through the existing, and highly successful Provincial Mutual Aid System.

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The responsibility for lost or missing persons in the Province of Manitoba rests with the Police Agency having jurisdiction and the Province. Across the majority of rural Manitoba the RCMP are the Policing authority and this is the area that the majority of our lost person incidents occurr. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was developed between the two agencies provided for the Office of the Fire Commissioner, through the Manitoba Emergency Services College to develop and deliver Ground Search and Rescue training to the members of Search and Rescue Manitoba Manitoba, and to coordinate the response of this network to support the Police agencies.

The Manitoba volunteer SAR network is represented by the Search and Rescue Manitoba Volunteer Association (SARMAN VA). SARMAN VA members are further represented by Chapters and teams throughout the province that are available to support any Policing Authority. The OFC has worked closely with the Winnipeg Police Service and Parks Canada to develop their SAR capability, and are available to assist upon request. A core philosophy of volunteers associated with Search and Rescue Manitoba is that the members ONLY respond at the request and direction of the police agencies responsible for Manitoba's Search and Rescue response.

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The Search and Rescue Manitoba (SARMAN VA) Volunteer Association is the only Ground Search and Rescue Volunteer Association that is recognized by SAR providers that form the SARMAN Advisory Counsel. SARMAN VA is the sole liason between Search and Rescue volunteers from Manitoba and the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC). SARVAC represents all recognized provincial SAR associations in discussions with the National Search and Rescue Secretariat in Ottawa.

The initial GSAR - Basic Training was targeted towards the Manitoba Municipal Fire Service. This group was already well trained, equipped and ready for response to various types of rescue incidents. The teams were organized using the Provincial Mutual Aid System. The volunteer network has since expanded beyond the Manitoba Fire Service, and is now represented by volunteers with very diverse back grounds, and therefore bringing a wide variety of skills to Manitoba’s Search and Rescue volunteer resouces.

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The Search and Rescue Manitoba volunteer network has grown over the years to presently include five regions with over thirty five (35) highly trained and mobile teams from across the Province. These teams are ready to respond and support local or provincial search efforts at a moments notice. The Provincial Mutual Aid boundaries are used to partially identify the geographical chapters.

Since 1993 over 2000 volunteers have been trained to the Ground Search & Rescue (GSAR) Basic level, with approximately 300 of those responders trained to the GSAR Team Leader level. There are currently in excess of 500 volunteers who form part of the 29 SARMAN VA Chapters, with training frequently provided through the Manitoba Emergency Services College to ensure sufficient volunteers are always available.The strength and success of the SARMAN network, has always been and will continue to be the volunteers who come to assist someone in need of help at a moments notice.