Rideau Search and Rescue: a life saving group of volunteers

Posted on: October 26, 2016

By Sally Smith
sally@pdgmedia.ca

An elderly man in his 90s wandered away from his home near White Lake. A five-year-old was lost in a cornfield in Battersea. The man’s body was found five days later; the boy was found asleep at the base of a towering cornstalk.

In both instances, Rideau Search and Rescue (RSAR) out of Smiths Falls was called to the search. Heather Murphy, training co-ordinator of RSAR, calls the first case a “successful search.” Even though the man was found dead, finding his body provided “closure for his family.” And the second one was, of course, successful, too.What does it take to become a volunteer with RSAR? She’s been on a search team since 1983 and has climbed through the layers of learning and teaching to now, at the age of 59, being a trainer of trainers.

What does it take to become a volunteer with RSAR? She’s been on a search team since 1983 and has climbed through the layers of learning and teaching to now, at the age of 59, being a trainer of trainers.RSAR went through some tough times. The Rideau Search and Rescue team initially had a home at the former Rideau Regional Centre but when the building closed down in 2009, the team lost its home. “When the building closed down, we took the team to the community,” Murphy says. None of the big equipment (like ATVs and buses) was allowed to go with them, so members only took what they themselves had brought in. Training exercises were done out of a garage in Smiths Falls. But even though the team was not housed in one physical space, members kept on training.

RSAR went through some tough times. The Rideau Search and Rescue team initially had a home at the former Rideau Regional Centre but when the building closed down in 2009, the team lost its home. “When the building closed down, we took the team to the community,” Murphy says. None of the big equipment (like ATVs and buses) was allowed to go with them, so members only took what they themselves had brought in. Training exercises were done out of a garage in Smiths Falls. But even though the team was not housed in one physical space, members kept on training.It was shortly after Joe Gallipeau bought the old RRC buildings and grounds that Murphy and her team approached him for a room. They only really wanted a room, but Gallipeau “very graciously” gave them eight rooms and two bathrooms. “If Joe charged us, we’d have to close down,” she says. Now everything is stored in one space and the training schedule is going full tilt.

It was shortly after Joe Gallipeau bought the old RRC buildings and grounds that Murphy and her team approached him for a room. They only really wanted a room, but Gallipeau “very graciously” gave them eight rooms and two bathrooms. “If Joe charged us, we’d have to close down,” she says. Now everything is stored in one space and the training schedule is going full tilt.There are three requirements to become a volunteer with RSAR. The first is to fill out an application. Be prepared to answer questions on interests, schooling, any outside certification you’ve received and most important — why you want to be part of the team. Second, attend basic training; it’s three days over two weekends, and is intense. And third, basic first aid training.

There are three requirements to become a volunteer with RSAR. The first is to fill out an application. Be prepared to answer questions on interests, schooling, any outside certification you’ve received and most important — why you want to be part of the team. Second, attend basic training; it’s three days over two weekends, and is intense. And third, basic first aid training.It doesn’t sound like much, but break it down to hours and there’s 24 hours of basic training, 16 hours of first aid and 80 hours throughout the year for a total of 120 hours in the first year. Be prepared to get to know your teammate; be prepared for fall and winter training, and be prepared for good laughs, long hours and great camaraderie.

It doesn’t sound like much, but break it down to hours and there’s 24 hours of basic training, 16 hours of first aid and 80 hours throughout the year for a total of 120 hours in the first year. Be prepared to get to know your teammate; be prepared for fall and winter training, and be prepared for good laughs, long hours and great camaraderie.That’s what it takes to become a volunteer, and Murphy says they’re always looking for new people. If you’re enthusiastic about being outdoors, if you have some spare time, if you want to give back to the community, “We’ll train you,” she grins.

That’s what it takes to become a volunteer, and Murphy says they’re always looking for new people. If you’re enthusiastic about being outdoors, if you have some spare time, if you want to give back to the community, “We’ll train you,” she grins.And you’ll be well trained, not only to OPP standards but above and beyond to Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association (OSARVA) standards. “We work for the OPP. OSARVA has a Memorandum of Understanding with the OPP that says qualified search and rescue units can be used by the OPP. We’re qualified,“ Murphy explains. “We teach to OSARVA standards, which make sure that all OPP standards are met.

And you’ll be well trained, not only to OPP standards but above and beyond to Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association (OSARVA) standards. “We work for the OPP. OSARVA has a Memorandum of Understanding with the OPP that says qualified search and rescue units can be used by the OPP. We’re qualified,“ Murphy explains. “We teach to OSARVA standards, which make sure that all OPP standards are met.“We are well trained,” she reiterates emphatically.

“We are well trained,” she reiterates emphatically.She also says that any individual can call RSAR if they need help finding someone. She insists they contact the OPP first, and tell them they want the assistance of the search team, but says she and her team would be there “in a heartbeat” if asked.

She also says that any individual can call RSAR if they need help finding someone. She insists they contact the OPP first, and tell them they want the assistance of the search team, but says she and her team would be there “in a heartbeat” if asked.Rideau Search and Rescue does

Rideau Search and Rescue does ground search. They work with the Coast Guard and OPP water patrol if a search is along a shore or coastline. There is an Eastern Ontario Search and Rescue dog team (which goes anywhere), and, in the last four to five years, there is a growing Rideau Mounted Search and Rescue team. “They do the same training. They re-certify annually —and, bonus —they ride horses. They can go places the average searcher can’t and the best thing is, they don’t make a noise.”Murphy explains that ATVs or

Murphy explains that ATVs or skidoos are noisy in the fall and winter, and if someone lost is yelling, they might not be heard above the noise. “We’re always looking for riders with access to horses. They have a different requirement on a search team,” she says, adding that the goal is always the same: to find the person.

It’s not, however, that easy to keep an outfit going. Initially while in the RRC building, the annual budget was about $4,000 for 30 people which came out of the RRC end-of-year pocket. Now, as the building is under new ownership, Murphy and her team are always on the lookout for sponsors and fundraising gigs.

The bulk of their earnings come from providing services for the Smiths Falls Bears. “We give them first aid and crowd control assistance,” says Murphy. And for that they get $2,600 this year. The team is also involved in the Perth Parade, a car show in Merrickville, Movies Under the Stars, and was at the Tweed Shindig. Possibly a sponsor could come out of that, Murphy says hopefully. The team needs a minimum of $3,000 a year with a lot coming out of pocket.

“We don’t have great funding and no big sponsor,” she says. “We go out and hustle.”
The RSAR also does community outreach that have nothing to do with emergencies. For example the Hug A Tree And Survive program. It’s an AdventureSmart program offered by Search and Rescue Teams to elementary schools from kindergarten to Gr. 5. Murphy says team members will go into any school and talk to kids about staying safe in the woods (or in a mall).

Each child gets a kit.

If you’re interested in getting involved or having RSAR come to your class or event, contact Murphy at 613-269-4615, or email her at smurphy101@hotmail.com. Volunteers range in age from early 20s to 70s.

Photo (main image) by Sally Smith: Mounted Team – The RSAR mounted team is always looking for new members.

Photo by Sally Smith: Heather - Heather Murphy stands in front of one of many photo boards where volunteers post pictures of search and rescue exercises and searches.

Photo by Sally Smith: Heather – Heather Murphy stands in front of one of many photo boards where volunteers post pictures of search and rescue exercises and searches.