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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How often are the searches and when do they happen? 
  2. What kind of searches do we do?
  3. How long will a search last for?
  4. What if I'm mega-busy at work and can't make a search?
  5. How do we know when there is a search?
  6. What's the coverage area for the call outs?
  7. Do I have to carry my gear with me?
  8. How much does it cost to join?
  9. Are there ongoing costs?
  10. Do I need to buy any equipment?
  11. How much time will I have to put in?
  12. Where is the training?
  13. Do I need to have a vehicle?
  14. Do I need to have internet access?
  15. How fit do I need to be?
  16. What if I've been out drinking and there is a callout?
  17. I am a member of another SAR team. How can I transfer to CALSARA?
  18. Do we get paid or reimbursed?
  19. Are we insured for injury?
  20. I can't make the interview or one of the training days... can I still join?
  21. I need volunteer experience for my chosen career, can I join CALSARA to get this?
  22. My dog is an excellent tracker - can I do K9 SAR with her?
  23. What do I need to bring to the Open House?
  24. What do I need to bring to my Interview?
  25. I live outside of Calgary, is that a problem?
  26. My first aid certificate has expired - when must I have it renewed by?
  27. Which type of first aid certificate is it that I need?

How often are the searches and when do they happen?
CALSARA averages about 9-12 searches each year. They can happen at any time of day or night. In general we get more searches in summer than in winter because there are more people using the recreational areas around Calgary.

What kind of searches do we do?
Members are trained for both missing person and evidence searches.  Some of the evidence searches are not as urgent and may be scheduled with several days notice.  We are a ground search team - we do not do airborne or K9 search, although we are often tasked alongside other teams that may do that. 

How long will a search last for?
Searches can be as short as an hour or stretching into several days on occasion. They are split into shifts called "operational periods", usually about 8 hours each. When you are notified about a search you will be told if you need your urban, 24 or 48 hour packs.

What if I'm mega-busy at work and can't make a search?
If you are unable to make it for a search that's no problem, as volunteers we all have personal lives as well. However to remain operational you must attend at least 5 searches in a 12 month period, this does not include the scheduled mock searches that we do.

When you respond to the callout with your 'GO' or 'NO GO' status you should specify if you can make later Operational Periods.

How do we know when there is a search?
Every member of CALSARA has their cell or home phone registered with our call out system. When you get the call, you then call back to a voicemail system where you will be given the basic details about the search and you must then leave your full name and a 'GO' if you are able to attend.

What's the coverage area for call outs?

The normal member cell phones will generally work in most places within and around the Calgary city limits.

Do I have to carry my gear with me?
You are expected to carry your cell phone with you all the time when you are available to search. Your packs (urban, 24 hour, 48 hour and CER kit) should be packed and ready to go. Many of our members keep these in their vehicles for faster response time.

How much does it cost to join?
The joining fee is $300. This fee pays for all your recruit training materials and uniform. If you decide to quit the organisation a partial return of the fee will be given back with the return of the uniform, depending on the condition. This $300 also covers your first years dues.

Are there ongoing costs?
In the past member's dues have been a nominal $10 each year.  Currently the are nil.

Do I need to buy any equipment?
You must provide your own equipment. You will be provided a list of items you will need for your urban, 24 and 48 hour packs and CER (Civil Emergency Response) kit. If you are a hiker or outdoors person you may have a good part of the required equipment already. There is one specific type of compass we expect you to use and some specific equipment including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

How much time will I have to put in?
The single biggest reason people leave any volunteer organisation is because they cannot keep up the commitment required. It is vital you understand there is a significant commitment of time and effort when you join CALSARA. After your recruit training is over, you are required to do searches, attend monthly committee meetings, take ongoing training and to participate in marketing and fund raising activities. Many members log hundreds of hours each year while those that do not contribute are requested to become involved or asked to leave.

Where is the training?
Our two main training locations are our base (5727 - 23rd Ave SE) and the Environmental Centre in Fish Creek Park at the west end. We hold exercises all over Southern Alberta, but predominantly in the Rockies foothills.

Do I need to have a vehicle?
While it would be very useful to have a vehicle to get to training and operations, you could get by without one providing you are able to get transportation to and from our base on an urgent basis.

Do I need to have internet access?
Yes. A very large part of our communications is done by email and with our search responder site (D4H).

How fit do I need to be?
Search and Rescue is physically demanding. You will often be required to search in arduous terrain while carrying a heavy pack. If you get puffed walking up a few flights of stairs at work then this is definitely not for you!  We don't do any kind of fitness testing or training - it's up to you to keep in good condition.

What if I've been out drinking and there is a callout?

You must have full control of your faculties when at training or on a search. If you have been out drinking and there is a callout you must decide if you are fit to attend.

How can I transfer to CALSARA?
If you are currently a member of another ground Search team, and want to transfer to CALSARA, please email join@calsara.com to discuss your situation and qualifications.

Do we get paid or reimbursed?
There are no paid positions in CALSARA. For actual searches tasked by the RCMP we may be reimbursed for travel expenses to and from the search site. Our policy is to car-pool when going to searches and we mayreimburse drivers if they have 3 or more people in their vehicle for an out of town search.

Are we insured for injury?
Yes. The province insures CALSARA members with WCB coverage when on training or a search tasking.  Make sure you sign in when attending official activities to ensure you are covered.

I can't make the interview or one of the training days... can I still join?
No. You absolutely must make your interview and all 7 training days (3 Thursdays and 2 weekends, with the second weekend being an overnighter). The very high cost to our organisation in terms of the hours and resources we put into this training makes it very very difficult to allow exceptions. You do NOT have to attend the Open House or the AGM/Graduation. You are expected at both but these are not mandatory.

I need volunteer experience for my chosen career, can I join CALSARA to get this?
Let's be absolutely clear on this. SAR teams are all run by volunteers, and recruiting takes up a huge amount of our resources. Do NOT waste our time by joining just to get our name on your resume. Do NOT take up a valuable spot on our recruit course unless you know in your heart you will return the investment of time and effort we put into you. If you join us you are committing to all the responsibilities of being a member. We are a charity for helping find lost people, not a charity for helping your career.

My dog is an excellent tracker - can I do K9 SAR with her?
We are not a canine search team. We do however often train with members of the RCMP - CSDA www.canadiansearchdogs.com. You should contact them if you want to only do K9 SAR.

What do I need to bring to the Open House?
Only questions & perhaps a warm coat - it can get a little chilly in our vehicle bay. Also bring your diary so you can note down your interview time.

What do I need to bring to my Interview?
At the Open House you can pick up the Recruitment Package, which includes many of the following forms which you can also download from the links provided below. For the interview, please complete and bring:

  1. Security Clearance Consent Form
  2. Photocopy of Photo ID : i.e. your driver’s license, Passport, or Motor Vehicle Registration Photo ID Photocopy of other ID : i.e.
    your birth certificate, social insurance card, or Alberta Health Card
  3. Photocopy of your current First Aid Certificate

If you are not accepted to CALSARA, we will destroy your information. If you are accepted then these items form the start of your personnel file.

I live outside of Calgary, is that a problem?

Some of our current members live outside of Calgary itself, as far away as Airdrie, Balzac, Olds, and Bragg Creek. As long as you are okay with the many events you will need to come into Calgary for, then there is no problem. The vast majority of all our meetings, training and special events are in Calgary - many of these are at our base in the South East. Your response time to searches is also something to think about.

If you live further away, such as Red Deer, Canmore or Cochrane, you may be better served to join a team closer to you.  We can also recommend the Foothills SARCochrane SAR and Badlands SAR teams in our area.

My first aid certificate has expired - when must I have it renewed by?
In general we prefer you to bring a copy of your current certificate to your interview. However you only actually need to have it for the first day of training. If your certificate is currently expired please book a standard (16 hour) first aid / CPR Level C with AED certification course immediately through a provider. The Red Cross is one provider.

Which type of first aid certificate is it that I need?
At minimum you need Standard First Aid/CPR Level C with AED certification, which is a 16 hour course that covers both adult and child CPR, and it must have been provided through a facility accredited by St. Johns Ambulance or the Red Cross. If you've lost your certificate, please contact your training provider who may be able to replace it.

If you have any further questions about joining, please email us at: join@calsara.com.
 

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