Arrowsmith Search and Rescue (ASAR) welcomed the public to check out its new operations centre at Qualicum Beach Airport on Oct. 1.
The new state-of-the-art facility, ASAR members, services and capabilities were showcased.
Nick Rivers, ASAR search manager, said it’s hard to compare the new operations centre with the old facility.
“The new facility is six or seven times the size of the old one,” Rivers said. “We couldn’t fit the whole team in one room for meetings and things like that.”
The centre has three large drive through truck bays, which provides plenty of space for ASAR’s vehicle fleet, and lots of room to grow, Rivers said.
The old facility, shared with the Coombs-Hilliers Volunteer Fire Department, had one and a half truck bays, a small classroom and a small amount of equipment storage space.
ASAR’s new centre is home to a main hall with a high ceiling — perfect for rope training, plus a kitchen, classroom facilities, a room for drying ropes (now done in an hour and a half instead of three days) and an operations room.
The facility will also allow ASAR to host regional and provincial training sessions, Rivers said.
The new location has already improved search and rescue response times because of its proximity to so many members’ homes. There used to be just one volunteer within five minutes of the old building, according to Rivers.
“Now we have about 15 that live within five to 10 minutes of the new facility,” he said. “So people are able to get to the hall quicker and it makes response times faster.”
The new location also cuts down on fuel costs for volunteers and makes ASAR more visible to the community.
“Being in the public’s eye is good. It’s helpful for recruiting, it’s helpful for fundraising,” said Rivers. He added support from the public and every level of government has been “outstanding”.
The project, started early in the COVID-19 pandemic, saw its price tag double to $1.5 million due to costs going up across the board, Rivers said.
ASAR is grateful for the mortgage provided by Coastal Community Credit Union and is trying to pay that down as soon as possible, but it is a challenge for a non-profit organization without an income, Rivers said.
ASAR was established more than 50 years ago.