Cold Lake Search and Rescue Society (CLSARS) offered high-level training from leading international experts earlier this month. 

Dr. Robert Koester is an expert in lost-person behaviour and Brett Stoffel has written important books on managing inland searches. Both are from the US.

The training, held at RCAF Association 784 Wing, was titled Managing Inland Search Function Course (SAR Manager). The intensive 40-hour course attracted participants from Cold Lake Search and Rescue, Search and Rescue Calling Lake, Cold Lake First Nations, and Onion Lake First Nations.

Jon McArthur, president of CLSARS, described it as “a collaborative and enriching environment for all involved.” 

The course covered strategies and skills essential for managing inland search and rescue operations, with participants engaging in classroom instruction and hands-on tabletop activities. 

McArthur said the participation of Indigenous communities in SAR activities is “of paramount importance.”

“Their participation empowers their communities and ensures that SAR capabilities are robust and culturally informed,” he said. “By engaging in SAR training, Indigenous communities can better protect their band members and neighbouring reserves during emergencies.”

“The traditional knowledge and understanding of local terrains possessed by Indigenous people are invaluable assets in SAR missions,” he said. 

Moreover, he added, collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous SAR teams strengthens the overall response network. 

Stoffel is president of Emergency Response International and OutdoorSafe Inc. With his extensive background in military aviation and search and rescue operations—he is a former B-52 and B2 Stealth bomber pilot and United States Air Force instructor.

He shared practical survival techniques and insights drawn from his experiences managing Combat Search and Rescue as well as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape

Koester is known for his pioneering work in lost person behaviour and as author of the book Lost Person Behavior. His methodologies, such as the Displacement and Watershed Models, have revolutionized how search and rescue teams predict behaviour and locate lost individuals, significantly improving search and rescue success rates. 

McArthur said the course was “a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to enhance
SAR operations in Northeast Alberta and western
Saskatchewan for Indigenous communities, and [to] improve Cold Lake SAR’s ability to respond to call-outs.”