Province of B.C. issues $18.6 million grant for ground search and rescue groups

The much-needed funding effort will help the BCSARA tackle expensive operating costs, as well as assist in the development and implementation of a sustainable funding model.

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BC search and rescue groups breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement of an $18.6 million government grant this past weekend. Pictured: Peter Reid, former BCSARA Secretary. Photo: BC Search and Rescue.

The Province of BC announced a grant of $18.6 million to 80 recognized ground search and rescue groups across B.C.

B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) is currently working on a plan to distribute funds quickly to the 80 GSAR groups, the AdventureSmart SAR prevention, and Critical Incident Stress Management Programs.

There are currently 2,500 volunteers that make up the various SAR groups across the province. Collectively, they respond to 1,700 incidents per year.

As is often the case with any volunteer organization, funding has always been an issue for the BCSARA. Combine this with the challenging terrain of B.C. and the subsequent high-cost of equipment operation and facilities, the organization was in desperate need of a more sustainable financial model rather than one-off grants.

When Minister of Finance, Carole James, announced the Provincial budget for 2019 back in February, things like eliminating student loan interest and public education grants were prioritized over BCSARA funding.

There was a backlash from multiple search and rescue groups in response to the minister’s announcement. The Columbia Valley Search and Rescue group released a statement asking for members of the public to contact their municipal government, MLA, and the Minister for Public Safety, to insist on funding for the organization. The group expressed that BCSARA needed $6-6.5 million to support operation costs, the AdventureSmart prevention program and maintain a peer support Critical Incident Stress Management program.

The new grant from the Province has helped heal the open wound that was left after last month’s announcement. In addition to supporting training and equipment operation costs, the grant will also support the Province and the BCSARA in the development and implementation of a future funding model.

“Volunteers can count on core funding for the next three years, for essentials such as personal protective equipment, training and operating costs,” said Chris Kelly, President of BCSARA. “The funds will provide critical core supports over the next three years, while final details are completed in the short term on a sustainable model.”

A Revelstoke Search & Rescue long line rescue. Photo: REVSAR

Last year, Revelstoke Search and Rescue (REVSAR) responded to over 70 calls, including over five snowmobile rescues in December 2018 alone.

The volunteer-run group was formed in 1952 and is comprised of approximately 100 members. The group provides several specialty search and rescue services such as Snowmobile Rescue Team, Avalanche Rescue Team, Helicopter Rescue Team, Swift Water Rescue Team, Rope Rescue Team and more.

In conjunction with AdventureSmart initiative, the Revelstoke organization has expressed that the best way that the general public can assist search and rescue efforts and reduce costs, is by being prepared.

REVSAR have recently utilized social media to post multiple warnings about snow conditions, in a bid to lower the number of future call-outs and simultaneously reduce operational costs such as sending helicopters out and initiating multi-day searches.

We are yet to hear how much of the funding will be issued to this local section, as well as the specifics of where the money will go. In the meantime, stay up-to-date with REVSAR and find out more about the work they are doing, at www.revsar.ca.

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