Last Wednesday, while the Minister of Emergency Preparedness announced $10M in funding for the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), the local crew was busy proving that money was needed.
The same day the Honourable Naomi Yamamoto talked about the dollars to be distributed to all 80 Search and Rescue groups in the province, Kent Harrison SAR volunteers were responding to two calls for assistance.
The first call came in on Wednesday morning regarding flashing lights on Mt. Woodside.
A concerned resident on the south side of the river thought someone was signaling for help.
After deploying two teams onto the mountain, SAR volunteers discovered they were only the lights from logging equipment at work.
The second call came in shortly after crews returned from Mt. Woodside.
Two males in their 70s had gone for a short walk along the Spirit Trail in Harrison Hot Springs when they got lost.
They called for help as one of the pair had medical problems.
SAR volunteers located the men in the 80-acre wood in a swamp area.
As the subjects were being escorted back to the road, one male’s condition deteriorated and he had to be evacuated by stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
In 2015 Kent Harrison Search and Rescue volunteers responded to 43 incidents involving a total of 78 subjects, six of which were fatalities.
The group spent 1,590 hours on responses and 1,860 on training.
A further 1,060 hours were spent on equipment maintenance, administration, meetings and community events, for a total of 4,510 hours.
Meanwhile, work is progressing on the new SAR hall and preparing the Harrison Osprey for launch in the spring.
“While the task volume is down from a high of over 60 calls in 2006, the volume of overall hours spent on maintaining the service continues to increase,” said the group’s president, Marvin Anderson. “We have a small group of very committed and dedicated volunteers.”
Last week’s events were followed by six fatalities elsewhere in the province involving responses by trained search and rescue volunteers.
Although incidents involving out-of-bounds skiers and snowboarders garner the media’s attention, they comprise only 2% of the 1,400 SAR responses in British Columbia each year.
As for the newly promised government money, BCSARA is currently working on a distribution formula.
The announcement follows work that has been ongoing for several years to develop sustainable funding for the 2,500 unpaid SAR volunteers, and to cover fixed costs such as training, capital depreciation, licensing and maintenance.
Discussions on the alternate support model (ASM) for SAR are continuing, as the one-time funding is seen as only an interim measure.