Urban Search and Rescue
Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) is the general term for a group of specialized rescue skills that are integrated into teams. Each team has resources that include search, medical, and structural assessment capacity. USAR involves the location, extrication, and initial medical stabilization of individuals trapped in confined spaces due to collapsed or damaged infrastructure.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs oversees guidelines and classification for USAR at the international level via a global network of USAR stakeholders. The network classifies USAR teams into categories of light, medium, and heavy to reflect specific performance criteria, training requirements, and equipment types.
Public Safety maintains the Canadian Urban Search and Rescue Classification Guide. It defines the standard array of tools, equipment and supplies suitable for teams at light, medium and heavy operational levels in this country.
Heavy Urban Search and Rescue
As urban populations grow, infrastructure ages, and climate variability increases across Canada, ensuring timely and effective heavy urban search and rescue (HUSAR) capabilities has become more and more important. In recognition of the increasing risks and the financial challenges of maintaining HUSAR capacities, the Government of Canada, through Public Safety, provides $3.1 million annually for the HUSAR Program.
In Canada, HUSAR teams are called task forces and are interdisciplinary teams comprised of specialists from across the emergency response spectrum. The HUSAR Program aims to maintain the capabilities of task forces in:
- Vancouver (British Columbia)
- Calgary (Alberta)
- the Province of Manitoba
- Toronto (Ontario)
- Montreal (Quebec)
- Halifax (Nova Scotia)
The task forces have specialties in SAR, communications, logistics, emergency medical assistance, technical and canine search, and structural assessment.
In order to find victims trapped in collapsed structures and debris, the task forces use specialized equipment such as search cameras, sensitive acoustic detectors, and search dogs. They breach, shore, lift and remove structural components, use heavy construction equipment to remove debris, and medically treat and transfer victims.
The program relies on meaningful collaboration between federal, provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, and individual task forces.
The Program supports
- Provinces and municipalities in obtaining the equipment and specialized training needed to sustain HUSAR capacity
- Investments in areas that will lead to timely and effective HUSAR response capabilities
- Facilitating interoperability among the task forces
Federal investments are for specific HUSAR initiatives or projects. Task Forces may access these funds to cover up to 75% of the total cost of projects that build and maintain their capabilities.
Contact the HUSAR Program for more information
Emergency Management News Releases
Statement by Ministers marking one year since the impact of Hurricane Fiona
September 24, 2023
Government of Canada provides disaster recovery funding to Northwest Territories
September 11, 2023
Statement by Minister Sajjan on Firefighters’ National Memorial Day
September 10, 2023
Emergency Management Publications and Reports
- Evaluation of the Initiatives to Address Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) Evaluation Report
- Summary of the Evaluation of the Initiatives to Address Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) Among Public Safety Officers
- The First Public Report of the National Risk Profile
- The National Search and Rescue Secretariat 406 megahertz (MHz) Personal Locator Beacon
- Canada’s Midterm Review of the Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030
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