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Sharing Responsibility for Safety

Parks Canada Public Safety Program

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In the beginning ... Parks Canada’s search and rescue program was born in the mid-1950s, when mountaineering accidents in the mountain national parks highlighted the need to develop alpine search and rescue skills within the Warden Service.

A Swiss guide was hired to establish an organized public safety program, and eventually two alpine specialists were hired and stationed at Banff and Jasper alpine search and rescue skills within the Warden Service. National Parks to train wardens.

The early 1970s saw significant technical advances, including:

  • an avalanche forecasting and control program along highways, roads and ski areas;
  • an internationally recognized avalanche bombing system;
  • a double cable rescue system for evacuating climbers from difficult rock faces.

The 1970s also witnessed the the expansion of the national parks system to include parks in the north, where extreme distances, terrain, and weather conditions make search and rescue particularly challenging. Marine components in new parks, as well as expanding small vessel recreation, created a need for marine search and rescue services.

Parks Canada's public safety program aims to reduce visitor safety incidents and to minimize the severity of incidents which do occur through prevention and appropriate response.

Between 1994 and 1998, there has been a yearly average of 1400 incidents on Parks Canada property, ranging in severity from false alarms to serious incidents and occasionally fatalities.

Parks Canada deals with a wide variety of public safety issues and incident types due to the vast territory and diversity of climates and terrain encompassed by its systems.