MONASTERY: Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue (SAGSR) offered two days of hands-on training last weekend.

Tanya McChesney and other members of SAGSR delivered a map and compass course at the organization’s headquarters in Monastery on March 17 and 18. The course is required training for members of the volunteer organization, but registration was open to the general public as well.

“The information itself is valuable to the normal person who spends time in the woods,” said SAGSR search manager Tony Sampson. “So if people want to take these courses, we’re only too happy to give them the information they need to become comfortable and to keep them from becoming one of our subjects.”

Photos by Melanie Holder
Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue search manager Tony Sampson demonstrated the tracking equipment the organization uses for its Project Lifesaver program. The project helps protect vulnerable populations – such as children with autism, or people with dementia – from becoming lost in the woods.

The 12 participants learned how to use a map and compass together, and how to make adequate plans before going into the woods. Participants broke into smaller groups to practice their new skills outdoors. On Saturday and Sunday evening, groups of four took part in a night-time navigation exercise.

Sampson said the course is helpful for a variety of outdoor activities. When he became involved with SAGSR over 30 years ago, Sampson said the group was often called to search for hunters who were required to carry a compass, but were not necessarily trained to use it properly. These days, hunters often use a GPS, but Sampson feels people should still have an understanding of how to navigate with a compass.

“We still have legislation that says they should carry a compass, and common sense tells you that you should know how to use it,” said Sampson. “It’s all important stuff.”

SAGSR hosts the map and compass course twice per year. They also offer other courses that are open to both members and the public, including a GPS course.

“GPS is quite common now because everyone is getting involved in geocaching,” said Sampson. “So it’s kind of good to learn all this, and kind of fun.”

SAGSR also runs an outdoor program for school-age children called Hug a Tree.

“We’re responsible for administering that in the province of Nova Scotia. We go into the schools and teach kids what to do if they get lost in the woods,” said Sampson. “It’s a preventative thing.”

Participants received instruction in map reading from Tanya McChesney and other members of Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue at the group’s map and compass course last weekend.

In addition to providing safety information to the public, Sampson says hosting the courses help raise awareness of SAGSR and generates new membership. Participants who decide to become a member of SAGSR have their registration fee waived.

“People get excited about it and sometimes that’s all it takes,” said Sampson.

Sampson urges anyone interested in getting involved with SAGSR to contact him or the group’s Facebook page. He suggests prospective members attend a meeting to learn more about the organization.

“That gives them the opportunity to see if they want to do it,” said Sampson. “Then we’ll put them on probation for six months to a year, and we’ll try and get them their courses like map and compass, and GPS. We’ll show them how to get equipped so they can become searchers.”

Participants received hands-on practice using a map and compass at a training course last weekend hosted by Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue.