Colchester Ground Search and Rescue was formed in 1975 after two small children were lost. At the time there were no organized search teams so untrained volunteers were used. Unfortunately one of the children died of exposure and one of the volunteers also perished during the search effort. Lack of proper equipment and training were the primary factors leading to the fatalities.
Since our formation in 1975, the Colchester team has participated in over 300 emergency activations. Included in this total are lost person searches, evidence searches, wilderness rescues and civil response requests.
Through the early years the team converted a school bus into its Incident Command Post and gradually acquired equipment to assist the team with the search for lost persons throughout the province.
1991 saw the Colchester team host the first Provincial Ground Search and Rescue Conference, Ground Search ’91, here in Truro. Search and rescue personnel from across the province participated in the three day event which included speakers, workshops and entertainment. One of the highlights was a public demonstration of a high-level rope rescue in Truro’s Victoria Park. The conference was not only informative, it also helped bring Ground Search and Rescue to the attention of the public through media coverage of the event.
In 1995 the team had to retire the school bus being used as the Incident Command Post, as it was no longer roadworthy. In need of a new Command Post the team purchased a minibus (affectionately dubbed “The Road Toad”) and converted it into a suitable command vehicle.
In 2013 Colchester Ground Search Wilderness Emergency Response Medical Squad was formed. This work group made a proposal to Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue for an enhanced remote rescue capability for GSAR in the province of Nova Scotia. The team has lead the province in this initiative and through funding from the Emergency Service Providers Fund were able to purchase the equipment to better conduct remote rescue operations in the province. Ontario Drive and Gear loaned the new designate Remote Rescue Team a 750 HDI eight wheel ARGO, to customize and trial for a one year period. The team embraced this program and commenced training of personnel in wilderness medical response, with specialized equipment specifically designed for this role.
2014 found CGSARA Remote Rescue Team (RRT) back in Truro’s Victoria Park putting on a demonstration of the capabilities of the RRT program. The demonstration gained national news coverage, further promoting the remote rescue capabilities of Nova Scotia GSAR teams. In 2015 the team purchased an enclosed utility trailer to carry the RRT equipment and the highly modified ARGO, making it ready for response anywhere it is required. This program was feature at SARSCENE 2015 in Charlottetown PEI.
Members of the CGSARA team drafted and submitted a project plan to the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, for enhanced wilderness evacuation equipment and training for all twenty three provincial teams. Upon grant approval equipment was purchased for Nova Scotia GSAR teams and we spent the winter travelling to each team handing out the equipment and training them on its proper use.
With our one year trial of the ARGO coming to an end, the team purchased the UTV from Ontario Drive and Gear as a permanent enhancement to the Remote Rescue Team.
2015 saw the face of the team change significantly with the development of a new team structure aligned to reflect the Incident Command System utilized in SAR management. Running our home operations as we would search operations provides consistency across all aspects of GSAR business.
In 2020 CGSARA submitted a proposal for sustainable funding from the municipalities that we support. Colchester County and the Town of Stewiake adopted this proposal without concern, while The Town of Truro is not yet onboard.
With our expanding stock of search and rescue equipment, vehicles and trailers, the team reached a point where it had outgrown the facilities that house us. So through a number of years of focussed fundraising we managed, in early 2022, to add a four bay garage shell onto our existing building. Now all of our equipment can be parked inside, out of the weather, primed and ready to roll at a moments notice.
Colchester Ground Search and Rescue Association continues to grow to meet new challenges and roles as they arise. Future plans include work groups to look into drone operations, FLIR equipment, horseback teams, mountain bike teams, kayak teams, and search dog teams. With a recent donation of a hovercraft, we are looking at it’s capabilities and possible uses for search activities also. Any and all ideas to better aide the lost person are embraced by our members.