AN EMERGENCY AIR SUPPORT STRATEGY FOR THE ATLANTIC
86% of Nova Scotians agree that it is necessary to improve access to emergency air services and coordination between agencies (Pollara, March 2022)
The RCMP’s Atlantic Region Air Services (ARAS) is based in Moncton, New Brunswick, and provides air services to all four Atlantic provinces. Air support was requested during the mass casualty event but was unavailable.
In Moncton, there was a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging and certified to fly at night and a fixed-wing aircraft; however, the thermal imaging equipment was removed from the fixed-wing aircraft after a 2015 budget cut.[i]
On the weekend of April 18 and 19, 2020, neither aircraft was available to provide air support as both were grounded for scheduled maintenance. The helicopter went out of service March 1, 2020. Typically, this inspection would take four weeks but, in this case it was grounded until May 12, 2020, due to COVID-19 related staff shortages. [ii]
The fixed-wing aircraft would have usually been available before the helicopter was grounded, however its maintenance was also delayed due to the pandemic. [iii]
Implementation of an Emergency Air Service Strategy would help prevent this from happening in the future by ensuring there is air support available for critical incidents.
This Emergency Air Service Strategy should incorporate police helicopter interoperability with search and rescue and fire services. Air services would need to be equipped with enough staff and aircraft to operate 24/7 to ensure there are no gaps in availability.
Recommendation 17: The four Atlantic provinces and the Government of Canada develop and implement an Emergency Air Services Strategy, to ensure that air support is available to all police services in Atlantic Canada during critical incidents, including active shooter situations. This strategy must:
- Ensure that all police services in Atlantic Canada have formal agreements to access either RCMP ARAS or other air support resources at any time.
- Consider the various purposes for which police may require air support, including (but not limited to) transport of specialised personnel, surveillance, or active shooter cover.
- Ensure that as a top tier of air support, police in Atlantic Canada have access at any time on an urgent basis to an aircraft and pilot which are capable of flying at night, and during an active shooter situation, equipped with thermal imaging technology and other search and rescue equipment.
- Allow for collaboration between police and other emergency response agencies to share access to civilian agency or private aircraft, for efficient allocation and shared funding of resources.
- Provide for clear policies and procedures to rapidly access air support throughout the Atlantic provinces, depending on police requirements and for all partner agencies, and ensure that critical incident commanders and police dispatchers are trained to request these services.
- Ensure that RCMP ARAS or other air support resources that form part of the regional strategy are resourced to ensure sufficient aircraft, pilots, and maintenance personnel, to offer support 24 hours per day/365 days per year.
[i] Air Support – Foundational Document COMM0058856. Mass Casualty Commission, 2022, https://masscasualtycommission.ca/documents/foundational-documents/#air-support
[ii] Air Support – Foundational Document COMM0058856. Mass Casualty Commission pg. 15, 2022, https://masscasualtycommission.ca/documents/foundational-documents/#air-support
[iii] Air Support – Foundational Document COMM0058856. Mass Casualty Commission pg. 15, 2022, https://masscasualtycommission.ca/documents/foundational-documents/#air-support