The Search and Rescue Interagency Frequency (SAR-IF)
The Search and Rescue Interagency Frequency (SAR-IF) is a national radio communications channel that Industry Canada has made available in support of on-site search and rescue (SAR) operations. Since Canada's SAR system relies on a diversity of air, marine, and ground resources working together to save lives, the SAR-IF provides a critical communications link between first responders, enhancing operational safety and effectiveness.
The SAR-IF is a Very High Frequency (VHF) simplex radio communications channel located in the land mobile band at 149.080 MHz. The National Working Group on Search and Rescue Radio Communications recommended a channel in this band since the majority of radios used for SAR in Canada already operate in this frequency range. While it will take some time for all SAR providers across Canada to be equipped with the SAR-IF, the move towards acquiring and using this frequency is an important common goal, notably when equipment is being purchased or upgraded.
Operational use of the SAR-IF
The SAR-IF is intended to provide a communications link between front-line responders during interagency SAR operations. For example, if a police force coordinating the search for a group of overdue canoeists requests the assistance other resources - such as a military aircraft, a volunteer ground search team, and a park patrol boat -- all of these responders could establish and maintain direct contact in the search area if they were equipped to use the SAR-IF. Each group, however, would continue to use their own communications systems to coordinate amongst themselves. Radio traffic on the SAR-IF would therefore be limited to front-line operational contact between the different groups.
Use of the SAR-IF for training exercises
As with all aspects of multi-jurisdictional operations, radio communications between agencies need to be tested and rehearsed. The SAR-IF may be used during interagency SAR exercises, but this requires a minimum of 48 hours notification to the appropriate regional or district Industry Canada office. Unless alternate regional arrangements have been made, this notification must be made through the appropriate provincial/territorial Ground Search and Rescue Council of Canada representative. A list of these representatives may be consulted on the National Search and Rescue Secretariat website.
Obtaining a licence for the SAR-IF
SAR agencies or individuals wishing to use the SAR-IF must apply to their Industry Canada District Office for a new radio licence, or amend their existing licence by adding this frequency to their current complement of radio frequency channels. Additional fees are required when this frequency is added to a base station licence; no additional fees are applicable when adding this frequency to existing mobile licences. While this frequency may be used on board vessels and aircraft, agencies doing so must be aware that the authority for this frequency is not included with the standard maritime and aeronautical radio station licenses. Additional land mobile licensing is required.
Federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments as well as
agencies may apply directly to their Industry Canada District Office for
use of the
SAR-IF. Other organizations must first obtain a letter of endorsement
from their respective sponsoring organization, certifying the need for
access to the
For practical reasons, radio frequencies used in the aviation, maritime, and terrestrial environments are allocated in different parts of the radio frequency spectrum to permit efficient day-to-day operations. This separation presents some challenges when SAR responders from these different sectors must work together. Depending upon the nature of the incident, there may be aircraft, vessels, vehicles, and individuals responding from a variety of agencies and organizations who must be able to establish rapidly effective communications.
The National Working Group on Search and Rescue Radio Communications was formed to study these challenges and propose solutions. The Working Group, which included representatives from all major SAR organizations in Canada, submitted a proposal to Industry Canada that identified the creation of a common interagency frequency as a top priority. Industry Canada responded by offering the use of one of the department's own national radio frequencies to the SAR community. The National Search and Rescue Secretariat and the Ground Search and Rescue Council of Canada are now working to communicate the availability and use of this frequency to all SAR providers in Canada.