What is the Readiness Project?

The Readiness Project is a multi-year project intended to improve operational readiness across the entire organization in three pillars: training, personnel and support.
Our approach to the project is to use evidence-based information to inform option analysis in each pillar, determining how we can improve our effectiveness through better resource management.

The project has three thrusts. Can you give a brief outline of what each thrust involves?

The project itself will follow a phased approach as we identify areas for improvement inside each thrust. All the thrusts are linked in one way or another so we will address each in turn then take time to stop, measure and adjust the outputs as required.
The three thrusts are the readiness framework, end-to-end training review and validation. There is now a fourth thrust under development, which is related to the support pillar, to examine engineering and equipment and vessel procurement.

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Readiness Framework: This is a policy document that has four main areas:

  1. Define readiness for the three pillars.
  2. Define readiness profile for stations by grouping them into four categories (heavy weather SAR, ocean SAR, lake SAR, boating safety).
  3. Operational restrictions for coxswains, which include new categories for a temporary coxswain limited to day only or day and night, with both being for a set period of time pending a coxswain course.
  4. A standard set of training exercises called readiness objectives, which is a menu of standard exercises a station can choose from to meet their needs. They are in three categories: basic, intermediate and advanced, and each describes the 5 W in the conduct of these exercises that a station can tailor to their specific operating area. This training is funded in the same manner that on-water training is currently funded.

End-to-End Training Review: There have been four findings that have influenced the new courses:

  • Safety data analysis from 2001–2016 corroborates the station leadership and management team’s assertions that there is a need for a coxswain course that includes leadership training
  • Safety data analysis also confirms there is room for improvement in essential SAR skills
  • RHIOT is an excellent course but there are insufficient seats available to generate enough coxswains to meet the organization’s needs
  • SARNav 1 & 2 are good courses, however, they have components that can be removed that are not specific to navigation

Validation: This is a process in which we would measure and adjust each area of readiness on a cyclical basis. Some of this already exists (safety audits for example) but some of this does not, specifically in areas such as training, recertification, station visits, etc.

What is the project timeline?

The overall project timeline runs to 2020 to allow for each thrust to be developed in turn, observed and adjusted. These timelines are always fluid as we move forward. In the shorter term the readiness framework is ahead of schedule and release is expected by October. We will garner input from station leaders and the Safety & Training Board (STB) and release a revised version in the March 2018 timeframe prior to the start of the 2018/19 fiscal year. The training review and development is ahead of schedule with pilot courses tentatively scheduled before 2018. The schedule will be promulgated by the end of August or sooner. Validation detailed work will commence in 2018 as well as the engineering thrust, with an estimated one year to implement.

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How will the project effect RCMSAR members in the short and long term?

Many aspects of readiness will be transparent to most of the membership but in the short term the four areas that will be noticed the most are:

  1. The temporary coxswain policy may provide certain stations relief; in fact, we have already proceeded to implement this policy with two RCMSAR stations.
  2. Training: There will soon be three new courses to overcome the limitations of our RHIOT opportunities and consolidate SARNav 1 and SARNav 2. We will retain seats on RHIOT to give us additional capacity and take advantage of this excellent course, but participation will be prioritized towards stations with a heavy-weather readiness profile. We will be acquiring a second training vessel to enhance the training scenarios. The following three courses will be delivered in Sooke and available to all stations:
    SAR Skills—five-day course (over a weekend), includes SVOP certification and has a large on-water component that will use two vessels in order to exercise all core SAR skills such as driving, towing, de-watering, emergency procedures, casualties etc.
    SARNav—five-day course (over a weekend), focused on SARNav with most of the time on water alternating with the simulator.
    Coxswain Leadership—five-day course (over a weekend), three days of in-class with a group of mentors to cover such topics as leadership theory, mentoring, coaching, communications, command decision making, operations and SAR table top scenarios. The last two days will employ two vessels exercising leadership in challenging SAR scenarios.
  3. All past qualifications will be grandfathered and the new courses could be made available on a case-by-case basis for qualified personnel with the priority going to members seeking a new qualification. As is currently the case, station recommendation and operational need is how courses will be loaded. To take a SAR skills or SARNav course does not mean someone must aspire to be a coxswain—if they are happy to be a crew or advanced crew that is perfectly satisfactory. Overall there will be 20 courses per year and if all the courses are at capacity (6) then we will have a 100% throughput increase at the SAR skills-RHIOT level and 50% increase at the coxswain level.
  4. Fitness: Physical fitness is an aspect of individual readiness that is important to safety and mission success. We commissioned a study by UVic to develop an annual test. The study is under review to develop an annual RCMSAR fitness test equally applicable to all members that is based on common RCMSAR tasks. The aim is to develop a reasonable standard and release this policy by the end of 2017.

In the long term, members will be affected by how we move forward in validation and by whether or not we use teams for station visits to conduct safety audits, training assessment, leadership mentoring and the overall readiness assessment of a station.

What do you hope to accomplish by implementing this project?
In short, we hope to improve preparedness and execution of our missions in a safe manner that also enhances the organization’s image.

Is there anything else about the Readiness Project you would like to share with the membership?

Communication is very important as we can never do it enough. So far I have briefed the staff and CEO on a weekly basis since April, briefs to the management team occurred in May, a brief to the STB occurred on June 13 and will occur monthly as we seek their input, a brief to station leaders occurred on June 28 and will occur again in three months to get their and their members’ feedback (which I have been receiving); next is the safety and risk committee followed by the board of governors and the AGM in September. If members have any questions I encourage them to bring them forward through their station leadership.

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