A $1 million commitment to the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSAR) by Rogers Communications aims to enhance search and rescue initiatives around B.C., in the wake of climate-related disasters that have plagued the province in recent years.
An initial donation of $500,000 was announced on Wednesday (April 6) at Victoria’s Hotel Grand Pacific. Instalments of $100,000 will be given annually over the next five years, making the total donation the largest ever given to the organization.
Association president Chris Mushumanski said the money will help fund various BCSAR activities and initiatives across the province and give it more financial security through unexpected environmental disasters. It currently receives $6 million a year from the Government of B.C.
Rogers and other cell service providers are working to improve connectivity around B.C., which directly impacts the work of search and rescue teams.
Jim Loree, a Rogers operations manager and BCSAR volunteer of 22 years, said he’s witnessed firsthand cellphones changing the outcome of search and rescue operations. Disaster victims with a cell connection can call for help and have their location determined before search and rescue teams are deployed.
“Both of these things have dramatically increased the efficiency of search and rescue response,” said Loree, who has volunteered in hundreds of operations since 2000.
BCSAR received a record 2,100 calls in 2021. Most were related to fires, mudslides and floods, the last of which is predicted to double throughout the province as a result of climate change.
B.C.’s relatively limited cellular connectivity has been a frequent issue for Rogers, said company president of integration Dean Prevost. While considering cellular investments along B.C.’s Hwy. 14, Hwy. 5, Hwy. 3 and a section of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert known as the Highway of Tears, the communications company learned search and rescue organizations are “one of the biggest and most poignant users” of their services.
“We’ll do our day job, which is to build out our network (in B.C.), and we’ll give back to the community by helping those that use that network to make sure people are safe,” said Prevost.
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