The Royal Canadian Maritime Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) is the volunteer-based organization operating more than 30 marine rescue stations on the British Columbia coast and in the B.C. Interior.

Amber Sheasgreen is the Manager of Operations for RCMSAR, in the second part of a two-part interview, we’ve asked her about the impact of COVID-19 on her organisation and her thoughts about the position of women in SAR.

Click here to read the first part of her interview published last month.

The Impact of COVID-19

RCMSAR has been listed as an essential service by the Provincial and Federal Government and as a result, the organisation has remained on call throughout the crisis. 

However, operating within the COVID-19 restrictions has of course meant that we have had to make some adjustments. New SOPs have been developed to help mitigate risk, online training platforms have been enhanced, and some volunteers have elected to step back for personal/health reasons, which has led to some resourcing challenges. 

In common with other organisations, we experienced initial PPE shortages, but thanks to community support, funding, and partnerships, most shortages have been resolved, however we continue to plan ahead for our volunteers.

During the initial months of the pandemic we were busier than normal as many Canadians took to the water ‘to get away from it all’, but it seems to have settled now as we all adapt to the changed circumstances.

Looking ahead, whenever life returns to ‘normal’ we would like to expand our business lines by partnering with other agencies and stakeholders to offer SAR services, assets and training outside of what we do now. 

This in turn could help us secure sustainable revenue streams which unsurprisingly would be very valuable – life as a not-for-profit is tough sometimes!

We also want to organise more opportunities for member engagement with annual SAR exercises and through multi-agency SAR exercises every couple of years. Cross-training is an invaluable learning tool, and since limitations of inter-agency/teams due to COVID-19 have had to be put on hold for several months, the need to re-engage.

RCMSAR specific, I would like to increase the training we offer to our communities and our stations, run recertification programs and offer more training for leadership development. It’s important for us to raise our profile with the general public and be recognised as unpaid SAR professionals, not just volunteers on a big yellow boat!


Personally, I am passionate about increasing women’s representation in RCMSAR. Currently, the gender balance is about 10% women and 90% men. 

We are starting to see more women in leadership roles – coxswains, advanced crew, station leaders and training managers, but in five years’ time I’d like it to be at least 30% across the organization including leadership, crew and supporting members; maybe we could even aim for one female coxswain in each station! 

As a result, I am keen to take any opportunity I can to support women in SAR roles inside and outside of RCMSAR.  

With this in mind, I am asking station leaders to consider a better gender balance in their activities.

We’re looking at recruitment techniques and promotional materials to ensure they promote gender inclusivity, and I am committed to making sure that we can source equipment and PPE actually designed to fit women. 

It’s important to make sure both men and women get involved in promotional events like ‘OperationThisIsYou’ and I try to regularly take part in external events that promote STEM careers and non-traditional female roles. 

I think it’s important to share my story – speaking and taking part in events, while building a network and supporting the other women I meet, so we can boost each other’s confidence, particularly in circumstances where we might feel out of place.

Looking ahead I am not sure of my ultimate career destination. I have always valued and loved being and working with volunteers and am very happy in my role.

However, perhaps in the future I might like more of an international scope to help develop and share best practices, and support women and gender diversity in SAR around the world.

Career Advice

If I met someone considering a career in maritime SAR, I would say go for it!

You can do anything you set your mind to, but remember nothing happens overnight. 

Determination and perseverance will always go a long way, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and work as a team.  Most importantly – the magic combination: find something you are good at, as well as passionate about!

I love working in maritime SAR. The people are amazing, so diverse and from all walks of life, yet committed to the same goals of helping their communities and to saving lives at sea. 

For me, coming from a small community, it’s about support and connection.  You have an incredible bond with your crew, once on scene you are affecting the lives of the people you’re helping, and every experience changes you personally.  

Unfortunately, like many industries, there is always inherent risk in SAR, and sometimes the very worst part is when someone gets hurt or we lose one of our team.

We’re a close-knit family, and what impacts one team or member, impacts us all. In tragedies such as this it is important to support one another, and our communities, while acknowledging they will always be remembered for their dedication and valour.