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Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue and PRAXES teamed up to provide mock search training events

PRAXES Technical Support Specialist, Jeff Scribner, recalls his experience working with NSGSAR and describes how their search training events have evolved.

In the summer of 2015, Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue led a cutting-edge series of mock rescue training events for Search and Rescue members. A branch of PRAXES Medical Group called Pii Software has been providing project support, training and software for NSGSAR for the past five years. As part of a recent New Initiatives Fund grant, which goes towards development improvements of the software, an exciting series of five training events took place in Debert, Oyster Bay, Whycocomagh Provincial Park in Cape Breton, and other Nova Scotia locations.

Previous NSGSAR training sessions occurred in classroom settings with teams bringing their laptops and being led through software functions. The 2015 round of training took a hands-on approach, putting teams out in the field with mock search events. Essentially, everything was conducted as if it were a real life search event but the “lost person” was actually an object placed in the woods by event organizers. Representatives from Pii Software attended each of the events to observe and support.


NSGSAR Technical Committee member, Billy Dunn, worked  from an on-site command centre in Debert, NS.

As part of the in-depth training event, all teams were expected to complete a series of tasks. Some of these tasks included demonstrating the ability to check all their members in to the software, enter search information, create tasks, dispatch teams in an acceptable time, record communications with the teams in the field, find the “lost person” and generate reports using the software. Only when all tasks had been completed and verified would the teams be finished. An added and welcome incentive for finishing all the tasks – lunch was provided. By this point, the teams had all worked up hearty appetites!

Command base set-ups vary a great deal from team to team, but generally speaking there is at least one designated laptop for the software while another laptop is designated for other programs used (Real Time Tracking and Ozi Explorer mapping). These laptop stations are located in a vehicle that the team uses as a command station. The vehicle also houses a wide array of equipment the team uses including radios, GPS devices, radio repeaters and large detailed maps of the area. According to NSGSAR Technical Committee member and Eastern Shore volunteer Billy Dunn, the program was effective and efficient.

“The software has reduced the number of people needed in the command bus,” said Dunn. “It hasn’t created more bodies in the bus”.

After speaking with members of different GSAR teams, the benefits of using the software became very clear. Before using the software, everything was recorded using paper. A member of the Cheticamp team mentioned that before using the program it would take between two to four hours for the command station to get organized and send the first team out in the woods to search. Now, it rarely takes more than 30 minutes to get the first team in the field.


NSGSAR team members prepared for an event in Whycocomagh Provincial Park, Cape Breton.


Command centre for NSGSAR event in Oyster Pond, NS.



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