Out of the Woods: Annapolis County SAR team gets new gear, training

Published on March 13, 2017

Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue members practice with a ‘mule’ designed to carry a patient in a litter out of the woods. The equipment, along with the litter fastened to the device, was given to the ACGSAR March 12 by Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue Association through the SAR New Initiative Funding Program.

©Lawrence Powell

LAWRENCETOWN - Members of Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue got some new gear and a day-long session on how to use it March 12.

Tom Fitzpatrick, president of Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue Association and project manager for the SAR New Initiative Funding Program, dropped by the Lawrencetown fire hall with a new litter, a hypothermia bag, and a wheeled device for moving a patient out of the woods.

“Every year the national SAR Secretariat in Ottawa sets priorities for search and rescue across Canada and what the provinces do is submit proposals for projects,” said Fitzpatrick. “This project was actually submitted in 2015 to provide all 23 search and rescues teams in Nova Scotia with standardized wilderness evacuation equipment and to teach them all standard procedures to evacuate injured or hurt people from the woods of Nova Scotia.”

The idea is to get everybody on the same page provincewide, and if teams end up working together on a search, they’re all using the same equipment and procedures.

“All 23 teams in the province have been issued exactly the same equipment that’s been identified to work in Nova Scotia and everyone of them have been trained by the exact same procedures so that that they can work interoperable to each other in the effort to get somebody out of the woods safely.”

Provincial instructors demonstrate how to wrap a hypothermic patient in a litter before evacuation from the woods. Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue received some new equipment March 12 and a day-long training session on how to use it. Training took place at the Lawrencetown fire hall.

©Lawrence Powell


There were 21 members of ACGSAR at the training session Sunday, including three new members. Search Manager Kent Molyneaux said the equipment, and procedures they learned Sunday, are completely applicable to Annapolis County searches.

He remembers a search a few years ago where they found a lost man after he’d been out in the rain for a for a long time and was hypothermic.

“We didn’t have this equipment there with us then,” said Molyneaux. “The evacuation equipment would have been great at that point because we ended up going through about 300 yards of swamp to get anyplace where we could get out. If we’d had something there we could have wrapped him up and kept him dry.”

He said it would have helped immensely but what they had were some rain jackets and some dry clothes but really no way of keeping the clothes dry while they evacuated him out.

“Today here for Annapolis we’re actually delivering the equipment to them,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re showing them all the new equipment, how it works, how to manage the casualty, to get them into it, how to work the whole system, and then this afternoon we’re actually going to start working on standard litter handling procedures that have been taught to all the other 22 teams in the province.

Hypothermia was one of the topics members of the Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue covered in training on March 12 in Lawrencetown.

©Lawrence Powell

The Gear

“We’ve purchased the Advantage Litter, a polypropylene litter that’s able to lift up to 2,500 pounds,” said Fitzpatrick, “and within that a hypothermia management bag that helps protect the person from the environment. It also has a shield, patient cover, and a wheeled mule that goes underneath it to help the carrying process.”

Fitzpatrick and several instructors started the day off with introducing ACGSAR members to the new equipment and showing them what the equipment is capable of doing.

“Then we taught them all the different ways of managing the patient, depending on the patient’s condition – whether they’re hypothermic, whether they’re responsive or non-responsive,” said Fitzpatrick. “How to actually manage getting the patient up off the cold ground onto the litter; we taught them different ways of doing that. Keeping safety as a key point and making sure the members use proper body mechanics because in emergency response quite often we have a lot of people with back injuries. So we’re trying to teach these folks to do it safely and eliminate those back injuries.”

Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue, with almost 60 members, celebrated its 40th anniversary last fall.

Molyneaux said members are trained to be in the woods, use a compass, do map work, learn camp craft skills, and survival skills. They come from across the county and from all walks of life, he said, noting there are military members, farmers, retired people, teachers, pilots, and many others who bring all their skills and experiences together to make a good team.

Follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/acgsar/

Moving a patient properly is important. Members of Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue trained March 12 to do it right.

©Lawrence Powell