Revelstoke Search and Rescue was called out on Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day, making for an “engaging Christmas” said Giles Shearing, one of the REVSAR managers.
Though this time of year rescues tend to involve snowmobilers and skiers, that isn’t always the case.
“There’s a whole bunch of different reasons why people call search and rescue and we never want anyone that’s called search and rescue to feel bad about calling or to be shamed online for calling,” Shearing said.
Revelstoke Search and Rescue has nine agencies that can call on them for assistance. Shearing said they most often get assignments from BC Ambulance Services and the RCMP but can be tasked by BC Wildfire, Parks Canada as well as the coroner.
“We get called and then we get stood down, people self rescue or they are picked up by someone else, and those are great scenarios for us,” Shearing said. “We really just care that people are back home safe.”
With that focus, REVSAR also works at community outreach, educating for safety and prevention.
“We are always encouraging people, just take half an hour, pack a bag with all of the things that you need for the season, just have it in there and do a trip plan when you go out, or have some kind of communication device,” Shearing said.
After the recent snowmobile rescues, the society reached out to the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club with this message:
“There have been five rescues this season already. In all five instances riders have dropped down into areas that they could not get back out of. The message is, just because you see tracks into an area don’t think you will be able to get back out. Some riders are on machines with much more horsepower than yours and their riding abilities are much better than yours too. Bad weather and avalanche conditions play a big part in their rescue attempts when you need help. Always be prepared to overnight, be able to start a fire, have radios or a SPOT/INREACH, food, water, dry gloves, socks and an extra layer of clothing. You are not guaranteed to be brought down off the mountain when you are found.”
|Laura Rapp of AdventureSmart, Steve Wesley of Revelstoke Search and Rescue and Erin Thompson of AdventureSmart were at the Farmer’s Market this summer encouraging people to be prepared before they go out adventuring in the wilderness. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)|
The RCMP also released a statement encouraging preparation before going adventuring, saying it is an individuals responsibility to protect themselves.
“When using the back country it is recommended to: have a travel plan, let people know where you will be and when you are expected to return. Bring extra food, clothing, water and fire making supplies – be prepared to spend the night. Stay in bounds at ski hills, know the terrain on sled recreation areas and learn if you have the ability to ride in those areas. Use mapping GPS features (waypoints). It is recommended to use a SPOT or INREACH type device to update others as to your travels, emergencies and any unforeseen delays. It is also reasonable to travel with knowledgeable persons (guides). The AST level 1 course should be a minimum for those in the backcountry, as well as a beacon, shovel and probe. Radio communications between travellers can reduce lost persons.”
REVSAR currently has around 75 volunteers, with around 30 who regularly attend call outs, Shearing said.
“Revelstoke is really fortunate because we have a lot of really talented outdoors people.”
Many of the volunteers are ski patrollers, Association of Canadian Mountain Guides certified, avid or die hard snow mobilers as well as people who work at Parks or Avalanche Canada. The crews are required to have an Avi 2 qualified volunteer before members can go in the field, Shearing said. Some search and rescue groups don’t have any, Revelstoke’s probably has 10.
“We are quite well resourced in Revelstoke,” Shearing said.
REVSAR has been conducting ground search and rescue operations in the Revelstoke area since 1952. In 2017 they became a society.
They have a snowmobile rescue team, a helicopter rescue team, an avalanche rescue team, a rope rescue team, a swift-water rescue team and a canine search team.
Everyone is a volunteer and there is no stipend or compensation for call outs. Shearing said that some expenses are reimbursed such as fuel for boats or snowmobiles, and if a person is on call for more than four hours they receive money for food. However, volunteers often donate the money back to the society.
The government funding varies year to year. Shearing said that the society gets a small amount of money each time they do a task, however it isn’t enough to keep the society running, though the recently received an allotment from the government that covered three years.
Despite the tight budget, Shearing said both REVSAR and their parent organization the BC Search and Rescue Association are adamant in not charging for call outs.
“We never want anyone to have to think, when they are in need of help, that they have to decide whether they can afford getting rescued or not.”
For those preparing to go on an adventure and looking for more information, Shearing recommended checking out the AdventureSmart website which has a list of essentials as well as a trip planner that can be distributed to contacts who could call the RCMP when you don’t arrive home on time.