The Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue team learned invaluable lessons in the November 2021 floods that will be used for years to come.
While the group of volunteers had an idea of what a full-scale flood response would require of them, everything was hypothetical and based on smaller events.
During the flooding, the brave volunteers rescued more than 200 people, day and night. Putting in a dozen 12-hour operational periods – and organizing the mutual aid of seven other ground search and rescue groups – they actually lost count of the rescues. And they did this all while their own hall was under flood evacuation orders and they were relocated to the University of the Fraser Valley parking lot.
James Roe, president of the organization, said they already have a document to work with moving forward.
“Our team’s safety officer developed a report that we have been using to help us establish pre-plans for future flooding events,” he told The News. “We’ve been able to identify areas that, when flooded, are more hazardous than others, which will determine how we decide to operate in those areas.”
He said they are also planning to improve the training levels of the current water rescue members “to help our members in the field be better prepared for the risks associated with flood operations.”
They were able to purchase a new jet boat thanks to the community giving back to them during and after the flooding. It is still under construction due to supply chain issues, but they have also acquired a new, unpowered watercraft to help reach and rescue stranded people.
For all of their hard work, the group was also given the inaugural John MacGregor Memorial Award by the B.C. Search and Rescue Association earlier this year. The award memorializes MacGregor, Canada’s most decorated soldier for valour.
The Central Fraser Valley team shared the financial award with the teams that helped with the efforts: the SAR teams in Coquitlam, Ridge Meadows, Mission, Chilliwack, Hope, North Shore Rescue and South Fraser.
“It was a big test for us,” Roe said at the time of the award. “We hadn’t been faced with anything like that before, considering how quickly things evolved from going from telling people they needed to evacuate to actually going in boats in a matter of hours.”
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