‘Pushed to their limits’: Ground search and rescue groups in B.C. report busiest year on record

'Pushed to their limits': Ground search and rescue groups in B.C. report busiest year on record
It was an extremely busy year for ground search and rescue groups in British Columbia.

It was an extremely busy year for ground search and rescue groups in British Columbia.

In fact, it was their busiest year on record.

According to new data released by the provincial government on Saturday, ground search and rescue groups in B.C. were deployed 1,959 times between April 2020 and April 2021, a nearly 25 per cent increase.

Paul Berry, search manager with Comox Valley Search and Rescue, told CHEK News that in the past 12 months, call volume has never been higher.

“Some days, we had multiple calls,” he said.

The increase is partly attributed to the fact that more people ended up venturing outdoors as they were forced to stay closer to home during that due to the novel coronavirus and restrictions imposed by the provincial government.

“It was just a lot of people, its great to see that people are out doing healthy things but at times people are pushing beyond their level of knowledge, skill and training,” said Berry.

Berry explained that rescue calls can often span anywhere from eight to 12 hours to as many as five days or more. He said for an all-volunteer search and rescue team, that can be taxing and urges people to plan ahead before they venture out.

“If it is snowshoeing they want to do, or backcountry skiing or trail running, make sure, they have the proper equipment and the proper training. If it is something they are doing for the first time, go with people who know what they are doing and know the area well.

Chris Kelly, president, BC Search and Rescue Association, said COVID-19 has not only made their jobs riskier but has pushed teams to the brink.

“B.C.’s 79 GSAR groups have been pushed to their limits. COVID-19 has made risky work even more dangerous for each individual,” Kelly said in a press release.

As a result, the provincial government is urging British Columbians to plan ahead and have the right equipment before heading out into the wild.

Berry said it isn’t just one simple thing that would help reduce calls, but a combination of factors. He said the best thing for people to do is to check the weather, go with people who know the area if they are unfamiliar with it, and to take the essentials such as proper clothing, water, food and GPS equipment.
“Check the weather and make sure you take essentials with you, that will allow you to look after yourself if are delayed in any way,” he said.

Berry recommends people visit www.adventuresmart.ca before heading out.

“We are thrilled that so many people are out enjoying the beauty of our province, but we want to make sure that people don’t push beyond their levels of training and experience,” he said.

Prior to this year, ground search and rescue groups attended an average of around 1,500 responses per year, which is more than the rest of Canada combined, according to the province.

[email protected]

RELATED: Three snowshoers rescued from Vancouver Island mountain


Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!