Search and rescue volunteers in western Labrador have been busy this week holding training exercises and demonstrations and testing out new equipment.

One of the items is a new inflatable rescue craft. It inflates in minutes, weighs about 22 kilograms and is easy to board for quick rescues.  

Craig Porter

Craig Porter has been involved in rescue missions for more than 20 years. (CBC)

Craig Porter, Labrador West SAR Commander, said the craft will help save lives in harsh conditions.

"Most of our calls are [in] winter — about 85 per cent of them. Usually when you look out and say, 'I'm not putting my poor animal [out] in this' — we're the poor animals that have to go," said Porter.

Another resource tool being tested this week is a thermal imaging camera, which came from the provincial government, following the Burton Winters tragedy in Makkovik in February 2012.

Search groups across the province are getting the cameras.

Craig Porter demonstrates new thermal imaging camera

Craig Porter demonstrates the new thermal imaging camera that highlights heat sources. (CBC)

"Every second is vital," said Porter.

"If someone were to go through the ice, moments count. You can die within half an hour of cold water immersion."

Now with all this new gear, Porter stressed the best survival tool is a trip plan on paper.

He advised telling someone where you're going can cut down search times if something goes wrong, which in turn, will cut down on the number of times the new equipment gets put to use.