About Us

Our Story

"We were sitting in an eddy on the Snohomish River in northern Washington, trying to recover from getting trashed in a set of Class IV rapids ... when a girl swam past with a big smile, a boogie board, and a set of flippers," says Walter Bucher, settling into one of his favourite pastimes: telling a story.

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"Needless to say, we were all highly impressed and peeled out of the eddy to watch her swim the next drop."

This chance meeting in 1982 was the genesis of Raven. The "swimmer" was Chris Jonasen, a hard core whitewater paddler from the US who was one of Rescue 3 International's -- and therefore the world's -- first swiftwater rescue instructors. 

Bucher was interested to learn that this fledgling training organization was looking for accomplished whitewater paddlers to become instructors. Jonasen had already signed on and encouraged Bucher to do the same. He was part of Rescue 3's second-ever class of swiftwater instructors.

The Source of Swiftwater

As Bucher discovered, Rescue 3 International had been born a few years earlier in response to the rapid growth of the whitewater rafting industry in California. "It was the latest, greatest recreational activity and people were flocking to the rivers ... but too many of them weren't coming home. There were no safety standards, and to make matters worse, no one knew how to perform a safe rescue without getting in trouble themselves. Emergency responders were using tried-and-true methods and equipment that worked on land, or in climbing, but which created major hazards in moving water. The would-be rescuers were drowning themselves."

A group of concerned water professionals came together, including the late swiftwater "pioneer" Jim Segrestrom and a "Who's Who" of emergency responders, lifeguards, and educators to create the world's very first swiftwater rescue course. Then they turned to the rivers to find highly-skilled paddlers who could teach it. 

"More than 35 years later, that's still the model," says Bucher. "Rescue 3 identifies a safety opportunity in a high risk environment and then consults a wide range of professionals to develop a course curriculum designed to mitigate the risks. Then we recruit the "go to" experts in that discipline to become the world's best teachers."

Raven grew slowly at first. In the beginning Bucher taught a couple of swiftwater courses a year, mostly to fellow paddlers in northwestern British Columbia. Word-of-mouth did the rest. Soon however, Bucher began to get requests from across BC. Supervisors in emergency response, resource managment and industry were responding to new federal legislation that made them personally responsible for ensuring their personnel had the training and equipment they needed to do their jobs safely. 

About the same time, Walter took his passion for keeping people safe into volunteer work for his local SAR team and fire department. "It really expanded my perspective on what our clients wanted ... and why," he says. He became intent upon dispelling the image of the iconic "rescue hero" portrayed by many in the industry. "I've always avoided the "cowboy" approach. You know, the attitude that says 'I'm the expert so shut up and listen.' That doesn't win you any respect, few friends ... and even fewer repeat clients."

The Best of the Best

And the repeat clients came, and they told two friends, who told two friends ... but rather than run a "one man show", Bucher concentrated on developing a network of the very best instructors in the business. "We don't develop new instructors the way our competitors do - as a quick way to make money for themselves," says Bucher. "Rather, we identify an area in which we have strong demand, and find the best person for the job. That way, our clients get the best instruction in the industry and our instructors are guaranteed a good income."

"People must have liked what I was doing because word travelled," said Bucher. In fact, news of Rescue 3's courses was spreading beyond North America, and Rescue 3 sent Bucher to teach in Japan, South Africa, Sweden and Italy.

Back at home, Raven was growing quickly, and so Bucher enlisted the support of his new wife Amy to handle the administrative side. "I married her because she could type fast and was super-organized," he teases. Her background in education, public relations and journalism didn't hurt either.

Together, they slowly turned Bucher's part time hobby into a full time job for the both of them. "Our formula was simple: we answered the phone, we listened to what our clients needed from us, and we sent their paperwork. In other words, we gave them excellent value for money," says Amy. "Our dedication to customer service vaulted us way ahead of other trainers."

Rescue 3 kept track of Raven's success and in 2000, they asked Bucher to become their Official Agent for Western Canada.

"From the very beginning, Walter was dedicated to the highest standard of safety, professionalism and client service," says Mike Turnbull, President of Rescue 3 International. "He has been instrumental in developing our reputation as the world leader in the technical rescue training industry."

In his new role, Bucher met Ron Morrison of Western Adventure Education (WAVE) based in Edmonton, Alberta who also taught Rescue 3's swiftwater program. The two of them were struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for their courses, and realized that together, they could serve the Western Canadian market more efficiently.

"We combined our operations under the Raven banner and haven't looked back," says Morrison. "This wouldn't have been possible unless we were wired the same way in terms of high standards and a professional approach."

Both Amy and Walter agree that Ron combines the best of the both of them. "His spelling needs work, but that's his only weakness," says Amy with a smile. "He has both the operational and administrative perspective needed to oversee all aspects of what we do. He has a diverse background in the military, outdoor and experiential education, USAR, and risk management ... and understands the type of formal documentation required to provide a firm foundation for everything we do. And given that he's the future of Raven, that's the perfect combination."

One-Stop-Shop

"To begin with, we were focussed on a rescue perspective for clients in emergency response or outdoor adventure. However, we began to hear from new clients for whom rescue was not their primary role. Rather, their priority was preventing accidents from occurring in the first place by learning new safe work procedures for challenging work environments. This required a different approach," says Morrison.

Raven developed a separate stream of courses that addressed OSH requirements. "We saw a dramatic increase in the number of clients coming to us from resource management and industry. They liked what we did, the value for money, and our customer service and they kept asking us to expand our range of courses. This led us to develop certification courses in motorized and non-motorized boat operations, surface ice, wilderness medical, confined space, tower rescue, and structural collapse.

In keeping with their time-tested model, Raven relied upon experts to help them enter new fields. "All our instructors are exceptional," says Bucher, "But Todd Sikorsky from Canmore Fire really advanced our technical rope program; our entry into the confined space market was lead by Chad Guenter with his extensive ERT background; and Peter Lyon, with a resumé in industrial safety as long as your arm, has brought us into standby services."

Retail equipment sales soon followed. "We've always provided advice on what would work best for a client given their particular needs, but our clients wanted us to sell it to them too. They didn't want to create a new relationship with an unknown supplier. They trusted our advice. And so we listened ... and we grew," says Bucher.

In 2009, Rescue 3 asked Raven to add Eastern Canada to its list of responsibilities. "We realized that no other company was providing the range of courses, equipment and services that we could," said Morrison. "But I grew up in Ontario, and I knew that eastern clients would want to deal with an eastern office, and so we opened one. Our regional manager is Dan Kirvan from Ottawa Fire who understands the needs of our eastern clients, but we still oversee the curriculum and set the standards across Canada."

As a result, the cadre of instructors has also grown steadily to meet the increasing demand in the expanded range of courses. Raven now has more than 50 instructors and an equal number of rescue technicians spread from coast-to-coast-to-coast. 

Most recently, Raven has launched three separate divisions to cater specifically to the needs of clients from rescue, safety and medical perspectives. The parent company will soon be known as RavenRSM. The R stands for a rescue-based approach to training, equipment and services tailored to the specific needs of emergency responders with a rescue mandate. The S stands for a safety based approach to training, equipment and services for industrial and resource management clients who must meet OSH workplace standards. Finally, the M stands for medical - an approach to training, equipment and services that reflects the needs of clients who are responsible for extended patient care in remote or challenging environments. 

Now in his early sixties, Bucher is comfortable in his new role as the patriarch of a growing and diversifying family. "It's my role to provide the "care and feeding" for our personnel," he says. "In other words, our personnel need regular professional development to keep us on the leading edge of everything we do, but they also need to know that they're highly appreciated for the incredible contribution they make to our company and our reputation. The "whole" is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. And I want to keep it that way." 

Our Approach

What we do isn't what sets us apart - it's how we do it.

From our technical training and equipment sales to our standby rescue and safety services, our approach has set the industry standard. All others strive to reach the bar that we've set really high.

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We are a full-service training, equipment, and safety service provider - when we look at your needs, we look at them in terms of the bigger picture.

The rescue training we provide is developed and certified by Rescue 3 International - the global leader in technical rescue training. We are the Official Agent for Rescue 3 in Canada. Through our affiliation with Rescue 3, we are able to provide certifications that are NFPA compliant - the standard-of-care in Canada and around the world. We also provide custom courses tailored to the unique needs of clients in industry, resource management, exploration and guiding who are governed by OSH standards. These courses are developed and certified by RavenRSM's divisions known as Raven Safety and Raven Medical.

This multifacted approach ensures our clients learn the skills they need, delivered in a way that is relevant to the work they do. Not some cookie cutter approach or one-size-fits-all solution.

We encourage clients to focus on learning and improving skills within their reach by embracing our challenge by choice philosophy. This allows clients to opt out of any part of training that feels beyond their ability level and results in a level of certification that reflects their individual abilities.

And once you've obtained your certification, we make it easy to keep skills sharp and meet NFPA and OHS requirements for annual practice with our free audit program for individuals, or our training maintenance program for groups.

And all this training isn't worth much if it can't be verified - so we provide extensive records of training with unparalleled documentation and even ID cards with QL codes that can be checked with any smart phone.

In keeping with our multi-faceted approach, our equipment sales are not limited to a few lines of gear. We're in the unique position of being able to recommend the best equipment for your needs from our wide range of major equipment suppliers.

Given our wide range of clients and constant feedback on the equipment they buy we know what works, and what doesn't. We've done the research for our clients - and so we can connect them with the right tool for the job.

And if training and gearing up isn't the right solution for our clients, they can hire our certified, insured professionals to manage their standby rescue and safety needs. Our standby rescue technicians can work as a stand-alone resource, or in cooperation with an existing safety team.

We are a one-stop-shop that meets client needs for training, equipment and services in challenging environments.

Our Instructors & Technicians

As first responders, outdoor, or medical professionals, Raven instructors are constantly using the skills they teach.

Our Staff

With combined backgrounds in field work, adminstrative management, professional firefighting, sales and marketing, guiding, emergency medical response, and public relations, our staff are a tour de force ... and we're all at your service.

Our Clients

Our long list of clients represent individuals and groups from industry, resource, outdoor adventure and emergency reponse, from both private and public sectors.

Join the Raven Team

Want to be part of the Raven team? Our instructors and standby technicians are the best in Canada. 

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WHAT'S WITH THE NAME?

Ravens are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.  They are proven problem solvers. They also hold an important place in First Nations history as the bringer of light, which keeps us linked to our company's Northern Canadian roots.

And when people ask us if we rescue ravens, we assure them that they appear to be very capable of taking care of themselves. And that's a good thing, because we're busy enough helping the humans stay safe.

TESTIMONIALS

Paul Olshefsky, Public Safety Specialist
Gros Morne National Park(Parks Canada)

Wilderness Medical Associates, Canada gave us the training that we require to work in a wilderness setting. The instruction was beyond our expectations and presented in a very professional manner.

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