Arrowsmith Search and Rescue had a busy year in 2015

The search and rescue team is funded strictly by donations and grants in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Lost?

There’s an app for that.

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue had a busier-than-usual year, responding to 38 calls in the last 12 months, according to search manager Gord Yelland.

He said many of those calls were from outdoor enthusiasts visiting Parksville Qualicum Beach who weren’t quite familiar with Vancouver Island’s rugged terrain.

“We’ve had more calls this year from people who are lost saying ‘we think we’re here, this is what our phone says’ — we’ve had more of those calls than ever before,” said Yelland.

“Part of it is people are using their smart phones to access maps to go out and do things and they haven’t done enough research.”

But those very smart phones have also been a saving grace.

Yelland said the local search and rescue branch has been using new software developed by a search and rescue volunteer in Coquitlam known as ‘your location.’

“It allows (Arrowsmith Search and Rescue) to send a text to the subject’s phone,” Yelland explained, noting the subject needs to turn on their GPS. The lost person will receive a text leading the subject to click a link that automatically sends search and rescue their location. “It even plots it on a map for us.”

The technological advancement has been a major help to the local search and rescue branch in the last year.

Yelland said they’ve received calls from a wide array of subjects, from despondent people to seniors with various levels of dementia to lost hikers hailing from all over B.C.

He said one of the more memorable calls came last summer when the search and rescue team was called out to Little Mountain, where a dog had fallen over the mountain. “It took us some time to find it and evacuate it out,” recalled Yelland. “The poor thing had broken its back and we couldn’t do anything to save it.”

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue has 25 active members and runs strictly on donations and grants. This year, Yelland said the organization spent $40,000-$50,000 on search efforts, not including the cost of new equipment.

While critics often suggest people who use search and rescue should be charged for the cost of the service, Yelland disagrees.

“If that policy was brought in we could be creating more problems because it’s not cheap. Some of these calls are very expensive,” said Yelland. “If people get the sense that they’ll be charged for it, they might think ‘we’ll go out and look for them ourselves’ and what could happen is they get themselves in trouble and then we’re looking for two missing parties.”

Yelland said the team is always looking for new members, but warned it’s a big commitment. He noted the organization has lots of positions in administration as well as on the ground.

For more information on Arrowsmith Search and Rescue visit http://www.asar.ca.

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