Search volunteers make a little go a long way

Campbell River Search and Rescue gets most of its funding from donations, including $9,000 from the city, from which it must train and equip its volunteers to be ready for lifesaving circumstances. - Photo submitted
Campbell River Search and Rescue gets most of its funding from donations, including $9,000 from the city, from which it must train and equip its volunteers to be ready for lifesaving circumstances.
— image credit: Photo submitted

One of city’s least expensive budget expenditures goes a long way to making the entire North Island region a safer place.

Campbell River Search and Rescue (SAR) is a volunteer-run organization that relies on donations to train its members, buy and replace equipment, and to pay all the other bills.

“We spend a lot of time fundraising. All SAR groups in B.C. are self-funded and receive no government funding at any level,” said search manager Grant Cromer. “We are lucky here in Campbell River, we receive approximately $9,000 a year from the city to help with expenses.

“It’s a small portion of what we need to operate a year but we are very grateful for the support of mayor and council.”

Last year was average for SAR in terms of calls.

The group typically responds to 30-35 calls per year and, in 2012, SAR received 34 calls, the same as in 2011.

“We responded to everything from missing hikers, helicopter medical evacuations, out-of-bound snowboarders, to mutual aid calls as far away as Smithers,” said Cromer. “We had a variety of everything this year, but definitely saw a rise in hiker searches.

“Between June and September, we had seven calls for missing hikers, most were overdue, some needed assistance and had activated distress beacons.”

Training is always an important focus for SAR. In the past year, volunteer members trained for the rope, swift water, alpine and helicopter rescue teams.

Six new members also came on board in 2012, two other members were certified as search managers, and a dog was added to the K9 team.

“Training and equipment in the SAR world is very expensive, a water rescue course can be $500 a person, times that buy 8-10 people a year and it adds up,” said Cromer.

In addition to training and certification costs, money is always needed for vehicle insurance, cell and satellite phones, and to buy and replace equipment.

“We have an amazing membership who is very dedicated to fundraising and chasing down funding leads so we maintain a high standard of training and equipment,” noted Cromer.

As a final note, Cromer reminds the public to play it safe during the winter especially around water with thin ice, in the alpine avalanche areas, and to let family and friends know where you are going.

“Don’t venture out of bounds to ski or recreate on commercial ski mountain operations,” he said. “It is very dangerous as it exposes you and the rescuer to dangerous environmental issues.

“Think about your choices before you undertake an activity, remember someone has to come save you when you get in trouble and that someone probably has a family at home waiting for them to get home safely as well.”

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