When you think of a police force, you might imagine officers sitting in squad cars, or walking the downtown beat. You don’t necessarily imagine them rappelling down cliffs or hanging out of helicopters. So it was a surprise to me to learn that the Ontario Provincial Police has its own Search and Rescue unit. They are part of the OPP’s Emergency Response Team (ERT).
There are about 250 members responding to between 350 and 450 calls a year across the province.
And these calls have changed dramatically over the years. Ten or twenty years ago they would get phone calls from families who hadn’t heard from a loved one and were worried for their safety. These days they are getting phone calls from the lost person themselves giving their coordinates and telling them to come and get them. But even here, in heavily populated Ontario, cell phones are not a sure way out of the woods. I spoke with Sergeant Jamie Stirling – Provincial SAR coordinator, Emergency Response Team, Ontario Provincial Police.
Here are some intriguing numbers from Sgt Jamie Stirling
- cell phones, even in highly covered Ontario, are only accurate to an 8 km radius … that leaves a LOT of room for not getting found.
- about 50% of their missing persons searches are for recreational enthusiasts. They are mostly hunters, hikers and berry pickers.
- on average it takes seven hours to find their missing subject. That is fast in a province the size of Ontario. They rely on a network of their own team and local agencies to ensure the fastest possible response.
– Melanie Wood, director, To The Rescue.
TO THE RESCUE airs Thursday, Jan 16 at 9pm/9:30 NT on CBC TV’s Doc Zone
Watch the Trailer: