Busy Arrowsmith Search and Rescue volunteers hope a one-time provincial funding announcement will lead to more stable funding.
On Jan. 27 the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure pledged $10 million, to be allocated through the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSRA) to “bolster ground search and rescue services throughout the province,” according to a news release.
The funding will be spent according to the needs of the local ground search and rescue teams, replacing or updating equipment, providing administrative support and paying for new or additional training.
“The service that search and rescue groups provide in their communities is recognized as an invaluable asset to the people of this province and today we welcome the additional support of the B.C. government to help strengthen the work that’s being done,” said BCSRA president Chris Kelly.
Ken Neden, one of Arrowsmith Search and Rescue’s (ASAR) search managers, said the announcement “recognizes the work of something like 2,500 search and rescue volunteers throughout the province.”
He said that while the funds will be a great help, “it kind of sounds like they’re going towards this alternate funding model they’ve been discussing, but it’s a long ways to go for that.”
In the announcement, Kelly did say the B.C. association “continues to work with the province on the proposed alternate support model for search and rescue.”
Neden said more stable funding would be great, pointing to the amount of energy the province’s 80 search and rescue groups spend on fundraising.
“We sell raffle tickets or whatever we have to do to raise money to get equipment, and the training’s getting quite expensive too.” The group is also busy expanding their hall at the Coombs #2 Fire Hall.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone agreed, stating in the news release, “Within ground search and rescue there are roughly 100,000 hours of volunteer time donated to searches; to replace these would cost more than $5 million annually in direct salary dollars.”
In an opinion piece sent out with the news release, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness, Naomi Yamamoto said: “Somewhere in the province, almost every single evening, a volunteer leaves the comfort of bed or the dinner table, or gives up the opportunity to celebrate a birthday or to read their child a bedtime story, because they want to be a lifeline.”
According to the release B.C. groups account for 1,300 of the entire country’s 2,000 searches every year.
Meanwhile the local ASAR is busy with a ground search and rescue course and ongoing training. As
The NEWS recently reported, 2015 was one of the group’s busiest years, with 38 calls.
Neden said one way people can help is to encourage people with dementia, or their caregivers to look into their Lifesaver Program.
Run through Nanaimo Lifeline, Lifesaver participants wear a personalized radio transmitter that RCMP can track when someone goes missing.
“We think of it every time we go on a search for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient,” Neden said. “It would be a lot quicker if they did have it.”
He said only four or five people are currently signed up in the area, but he thinks many others could be helped by it.
For more information and to sign up, contact Lifeline at Lifeline.Nanaimo@viha.ca or 250-947-8213. For more on the project visit www.sarbc.org/sarbc/projlife.html. For more on the local search and rescue organization visit www.asar.ca.