It was a year of firsts for the volunteer organization Saskatoon Search and Rescue. Last year was the inaugural year for Project Lifesaver, where those with cognitive disorders like dementia who might tend to wander are fitted with a bracelet that emits a radio frequency. President of the SSAR, Shelley Ballard-McKinlay, says if the person wanders away, the SSAR can use their equipment to hone in them more quickly than other methods. Since the international program began in 1999, there have been over 34-hundred Project Lifesaver rescues.
Ballard-McKinlay says they had 29 clients sign up for the program and were called out as of this Thursday – twice. The first time the person was successfully found. And just this morning (Frid) SSAR tweeted that it was activated by the Saskatoon Police Service for a Project Life Saver client Thursday. Police and Search and Rescue volunteers were on scene immediately with a signal on the client’s receiver. Luckily, the client was located in less than 30 minutes by their caregiver.
Another first is welcoming a civilian search dog team into the group after thousands of hours of volunteer training for the dog and handler. It was also a record year for the number of calls from the Saskatoon Police Service and the RCMP. Ballard-McKinlay says there were 28 searches where they were called in to help. She believes the increase is because both police agencies trust their skills, so they are more apt to think about the SSAR sooner. Saskatoon Search and Rescue is completely volunteer, with the dedicated searchers putting in many hours of training over a 4 month period before volunteering for search efforts.