Minette Bay, at Minette Bay West Park in Kitimat. Kitimat Search and Rescue often has to respond to calls on different bodies of water, in many different weather and water conditions, and the new annual funding from the Provincial government will help support their training for the vairety of situations their tasks may include. (Clare Rayment)

Provincial government to provide long-term financial support to B.C. Search and Rescue groups

The government will be providing an annual funding contribution of $6 million to begin in 2022-23.

The B.C. government recently announced that it will be providing an annual funding contribution to help support the 79 Search and Rescue (SAR) groups across the province.

Beginning in 2022-23, the Provincial government will be providing $6 million annually to help support the 2,500 SAR volunteer members throughout B.C.

Kelly Marsh, search manager for Kitimat Search and Rescue (KSAR), said they’re very excited for the funding and the support it will provide for the team.

“We are very happy to have long-term funding from the Provincial government,” Marsh said. “It’s nice to be able to focus on items like training and being prepared as much as we can for responding to tasks.”

READ MORE: Kitimat SAR says hikers that become lost were well-prepared

Since January 2020, ground search and rescue volunteers across B.C. have responded to more than 700 calls throughout the province. British Columbians are being asked to do their part to help these teams, by taking precautions and being safe while in the outdoors, this summer and going forward.

“Every time someone takes a risk in the backcountry, by going off established trails or not being prepared, the safety of ground search and rescue volunteers is put at risk,” Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, said in a press release. “These skilled and dedicated volunteers work hard, and while they will be there for people who need help, British Columbians need to do their part by being prepared and staying safe in the outdoors.”

READ MORE: B.C. sees spike in search and rescue calls ahead of COVID-19 restrictions easing

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, added that staying safe is another way to support the SAR teams, along with the funding the government is providing.

“B.C.’s ground search and rescue groups have been calling for long-term, sustainable funding, and we’ve worked with them to meet this need,” Farnworth said in a press release. “But funding is only one way to show our support. Search and rescue volunteers take a risk every time they go out to rescue someone, and that risk is heightened due to COVID-19. I’m calling on all British Columbians to be safe and to make sure your family, friends and neighbours are being safe, so we can reduce the risks for everyone.”

Since 2013, the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) has been working with the Province on a long-term approach to funding. The Province provided a one-time, $18.6-million investment to SAR groups in 2019, based on the recommendations by a consultant in 2018. However, the Budget 2020 contribution, starting in 2022-23, will provide sustainable, ongoing support annually.

Marsh said KSAR will be using their funding to help buy equipment for the team, as well as insurance and equipment maintenance.

“We will use the funding mainly for training, PPE, team gear, and items like our truck, future side-by-side, and a swift water rescue boat,” Marsh said. “It will also help cover less glamorous items as insurance and maintenance of our current assets and gear.”

BCSARA and the Provincial government are asking the public to do their part and take precautions to stay safe while in the outdoors, by doing things such as staying on marked trails, be prepared for an overnight stay in the case of an emergency, and having the right equipment and clothing for the weather.

Marsh said that he and his team are always training for when emergencies do come up, but the funding will definitely help them be more prepared for tasks going forward.

“Before we had the pressure of fundraising to stay afloat,” Marsh said, “And while we still will have to fundraise, we can now focus more on training and preparing our team for the tasks ahead.”



clare.rayment@northernsentinel.com

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