A search and rescue helicopter heads toward a deadly avalanche site in a March 14, 2010 photo near Revelstoke, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Revelstoke Search and Rescue notice significant drop in calls

SAR across the province dropped roughly 90 per cent last week

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Revelstoke Search and Rescue (SAR) said it is still able and willing to respond to calls.

“We are doing lots of planning on how to respond safely,” Revelstoke SAR director Giles Shearing said.

Shearing said the team does have face masks, but they are trying to get more. They also have a stock of disinfectant, courtesy of Monashee Distillery.

READ MORE: Revelstoke distillery halts production to make free disinfectant

While this would be a busy time of year, usually with multiple calls per week, Shearing said, as of March 27, SAR has not gone out in roughly two weeks.

“Fortunately, people are dialing back extreme activities.”

On a Saturday prior to the pandemic, Shearing said SAR responded four times.

Incidents requiring SAR are down across the province. Between March 23-29 this year, there was nearly a 45 per cent drop compared to the same period last year. However, the BC Search and Rescue Association said prior to the COVID-19 crisis, SAR calls were slightly higher this year compared to 2019.

In the past two weeks, various governments and agencies, such as Parks Canada and Avalanche Canada have urged recreationalists to stay home.

Parks Canada has closed parking lots to further restrict access to the backcountry.

READ MORE: Update: Parks Canada to close access to trails

READ MORE: Revelstoke trails closed by outbreak

Shearing said it appears people are listening and taking less risks.

He said it’s not only SAR that are involved in rescues, but also doctors, nurses, paramedics and helicopter pilots. Meaning the potential spread of an infectious disease could go far.

One difference of SAR compared with other emergency response services is it’s volunteer run. The Revelstoke chapter has roughly 90 members.

If people do choose to head into the woods, Shearing reminds individuals to plan for the backcountry, such as familiarizing with the safety information app AdventureSmart. He said it’s important to carry essentials like a source of light, heat and communication.

“We realize people want to be outside, but now is the time to dial it back.”

Correction: The original article said there was an approximate 89 per cent decrease last week in SAR calls across the prvince. That was incorrect.



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