Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Told to Vary Rescue Times a Year before Auditor General's Criticism

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Told to Vary Rescue Times a Year before Auditor General's Criticism

Article excerpt

Military told to vary rescue hours in 2012

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OTTAWA - The Canadian air force was told more than year before being rapped on the knuckles by the auditor general that varying its hours of search-and-rescue operations would mean significantly improved response times for people in distress.

The Defence Research and Development Canada analysis, obtained by The Canadian Press, examined in detail the way rescue squadrons do business.

The analysis says tinkering with the schedule would give joint rescue centres more leverage "to save lives without increasing" the staffing levels of air force units.

Despite the conclusion of the March 2012 report, the recommendation gathered dust until the military was taken to task in April by the auditor general, who found the rescue system is close to the "breaking point."

Examining data over a five-year period in the early 2000s, the report says as many as 20 people -- out of 814 involved in rescues during that time -- would have benefited from shorter response times.

The report was commissioned by the head of the air force in late 2007 and looked at data over a five-year period.

Had operational hours been adjusted, rescue centres in Victoria and Trenton would have been able to respond more quickly to almost 50 per cent of the cases, said the 52-page analysis.

In response to auditor Michael Ferguson's report, Defence Minister Peter MacKay "encouraged" local commanders to adjust their hours of operation, among other things.

The military is currently required to get a rescue aircraft off the runway within 30 minutes of an emergency call between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, and within two hours outside that window.

The national search-and-rescue manual already gives commanders that authority, "to realign SAR standby periods" so that they coincide with periods of greatest search-and-rescue, particularly during the summer months. …

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