Our Historical Background

Prior to 1958, there was no single organisation responsible for Search and Rescue in South Africa. In the event of an accident at sea a Port Captain would take the necessary action as he deemed would be to best advantage and the people he called upon for help would assist as best they could.

Similarly, the aviation authorities, the SAAF, SAPS and Telephone Exchanges always assisted where necessary. The shipping and aviation activity increased to such an extent that there was a need for a dedicated organisation in line with International standards. The then Minister of Transport instructed that a permanent committee, embracing all the Government Departments which could contribute services or the facilities for search and rescue, must be established with the object of co-ordinating the country search and rescue efforts.

On 1st of October 1958, the Department of Transport became responsible for the co-ordination of the South African Search and Rescue Services, and as a result the Permanent Committee for Search Rescue was established.

In October 1961, the Minister of Transport widened the scope of the Permanent Committee and changed its title to PECSAR, which stands for Permanent Committee for Search and Rescue. The most significant change in its form of operation was the establishment of two sub-committees, maritime and aeronautical, to attend to detailed matters pertaining to their respective fields. This worked very well and engendered a search and rescue consciousness on a wider field.

The two sub-committee reported to the main committee on their activities although they could refer any urgent matter to the main committee at any time. One of the first requirements of the PECSAR Organisation was to prescribe standard procedures, with the result that a Working Group was formed to draw up a Manual. The PECSAR Manual eventually saw the light of day in its bilingual printed form in October 1961.

In 1979 the PECSAR committee changed its name to the South African Search and Rescue Organization (SASAR), to keep with its national character and to identify itself as a South African Organization. The SASAR Organization tasked the Head of Maritime SAR operations, the Head of Aviation SAR operations and SASAR Secretariat to update the Manual. The new revised Manual came into effect in August 1993.

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