With the COVID-19 pandemic driving more people outdoors over the last year, 2021 is looking like it could become a very busy year for B.C. Search and Rescue Crews.
The BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) wrote in a tweet Monday the call volume for Search and Rescue (SAR) is already on pace to surpass the volume in 2020.
“The volume is up compared to last year and last year was a record-setting year for us. It probably beat the previous year by about 30 per cent,” said Dwight Yochim, BC Search and Rescue Association Senior Manager. “Looking at the first three months of this year, we’re already ahead of the curve, which is concerning.”
It's been busy start to 2021 for #BCSAR groups across BC and if this trajectory continues task numbers will easily surpass recent years. Here's a look at call-outs for the first quarter & how it compares to previous years.
#searchandrescue #volunteer #unpaidprofessionals pic.twitter.com/Ulq2FaueCF
— BCSARA (@BCSARAssoc) April 26, 2021
Yochim says that while the province is into spring, one of the biggest concerns is hikers getting hypothermia.
He says that although the weather at lower elevations has been nice in recent weeks, there’s still snow at higher elevations and can catch unprepared hikers off guard.
“This time of year people aren’t as prepared for cold weather. You get up to the tops of the mountains, there’s still snow up there. So, they’re out in shorts and T-shirts and enjoying the warm weather we had recently,” said Yochim. “If they get in trouble, they don’t have the clothes to stay out if they’re injured or lost.”
Some outdoor stores have seen the impact of having many beginners do outdoor activities. The pandemic has caused a surge of sales in equipment but it also makes owners and operators feel that outdoor safety education is key.
“We have a plethora of newcomers coming in who are brand new to camping,” said Erin Boggs, Co-Owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store. “We are seeing such a demand right now between our local community and people calling in.”
Boggs said that the demand for outdoor gear has gone up since 2019 and the many newcomers to camping have prompted safety campaigns from their business. She said the store encourages hikers to download apps and gives them tips and tricks to help them be safe in the outdoors.
“I tell a lot of people who are going out there that there’s apps you can get like Gaia, which you can get a free version or for $25 a year it will actually track where you are on the trail,” said Boggs.
“There’s been a number of staff who’ve come up to me in the last year and say ‘okay this person’s going out for their first time and they want to go on one of the highest peaks on the Island’. So, we’ll actually just talk to that person and encourage them and say ‘hey that’s an amazing goal, but I would start out with a night on the Juan de Fuca working up to [Strathcona].”
The BCSARA is asking that people look into Adventure Smart and follow the “Three Ts”. They ask that people plan their trip, train to ensure that people are prepared for where they are going and take the essentials.
“Hopefully with a bit of that in your back pocket you might not need our services and be able to return with a happy story,” said Yochim.
READ MORE: ‘Pushed to their limits’: Ground search and rescue groups in B.C. report busiest year on record