Frequently Asked Questions

How can I start a career in SAR?

Within Canada, the National Search and Rescue Program involves federal departments, volunteers, organisations, municipalities, provinces and territories, working together to provide SAR services. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is responsible for providing, among other things, maritime resources in support of Search and Rescue (SAR) in areas of federal responsibility.

The SAR program is only one of many aspects of the CCG commitment to maritime safety. Every crewmember aboard a CCG vessel can be asked to serve on all vessels in our fleet, from icebreaker, to survey vessel, to buoy-tender. In this regard, the Canadian Coast Guard does not hire solely on the Search and Rescue demand but based on our general fleet requirements.

The SAR Program is both demanding and popular amongst employees' choice of career paths. For that reason, employees posted on SAR vessels are normally selected from already experienced personnel. Some will receive additional training as Rescue Specialist. Any member of the crew can be called to play this role.

A Rescue Specialist is foremost a crewmember with additional training in advanced first aid and rescue techniques. The choice of rescue specialist candidates is very selective and may favour a person with previous training, but the candidate will be chosen from amongst existing crewmembers.

Applications for positions on Coast Guard vessels are selected through The Public Service Commission and Employment Canada Centres. The CCG also offers an Officer Training Program based at the Canadian Coast Guard College in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It is a 4 year, full-time, education program that prepares the officer cadet for a career in either Marine Engineering or Navigation. You can visit the Canadian Coast Guard College Web site at /eng/College/Welcome

How can I become a SAR technician?

Maritime SAR is administered with the assistance of several different partners.  SAR technicians are members of the air force, and as with the Coast Guard, are selected from current members of the Canadian Forces for extensive training in advanced trauma life-support, land and sea survival, rescue techniques from helicopters, parachuting, diving, mountain climbing and rappelling. For further information on becoming a SAR Technician with the Canadian Forces, please visit the Air Force's Careers page.

Are there any programs for students interested in maritime SAR?

The CCG employs university students to operate the Inshore Rescue Boat Program at selected sites across Canada, during the summer months. Further details on this opportunity can be obtained at the Public Service Commissions Student Workforce Employment Program (FSWEP).

What SAR resources are available in my region?

Many resources are available for search and rescue. All government resources, from a police car to a Coast Guard Ship, can be used in a SAR operation. The primary units used in Maritime SAR come from the Coast Guard and the resources vary from region to region. The CCG has five different regions each with various vessels in their service and each vessel provides support to the SAR program when needed. For further information on regional resources please visit the CCG regional Web sites which can be accessed from the SAR Links page. As well, the Canadian Forces work in partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard and provides aircraft in support of the Maritime SAR program. The aircraft vary from the C130 Hercules to the Buffalo fixed wing as well as the newest SAR aircraft, the Cormorant Helicopter.

Should I test the automatic distress button on my VHF DSC (Very High Frequency/Digital Selective Calling) Radio once a year?

NO DO NOT TEST this Distress Alerting feature. There is no test feature of the automatic distress button, and it is an offence under both the Canada Shipping Act and the Radiocommunication Act to send a false distress message even if it is only for a test.

Why do I need to register my EPIRB?

The information contained in the Registry, provided through registration cards that are distributed with each beacon sold, is not available to the public. It is provided solely to the Canadian Mission Control Centre (CMCC) in Trenton, Canada for use in responding to emergency beacon signals received via the satellite system. The information provided allows the CMCC staff to identify the source of the signal and to perform a preliminary verification of the distress call. If the card is not registered properly and if it is not updated with any changes (i.e. the EPIRB is moved to another boat) it could lengthen the investigation if ever the beacon is activated in case of an emergency.

Occasionally I see a boat with a blue flashing light. Why and who can show that blue flashing light?

The Canadian Rules of the Road, rule #45 allows a 'government ship' to exhibit as an identification signal a blue flashing light when providing assistance in a search and rescue operation or when engaged in law enforcement activities. Since January 31st 2003, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary boats are also authorised to show this signal when they are participating in a search and rescue mission.

Do I have to pay for Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary services?

The CCG and CCGA provide search and rescue services to mariners in distress free of charge. This said, in non-emergency situations, CCG and CCGA vessels will not compete with private companies. Therefore, if a boat breaks down and requires towing services but is in no immediate danger, the mariner should endeavour to make their own arrangements for assistance while keeping the CCG informed for safety reasons. The CCG and CCGA will not provide these services if a suitable commercial towing company is available to provide the assistance.