Revelstoke Search and Rescue responded to more than 80 callouts in 2019, one of their busiest years, said Giles Shearing, one of the REVSAR managers.
The team has 80 members, with specialty teams, including swiftwater, sled, rope and helicopter as well as a general search team and a Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association certified dog and handler.
This year the team had 20 new recruits. Shearing said they are all “expert outdoor mountain ninjas”.
Everyone practices once a week, with the specialty teams getting together for separate training sessions.
Each and every one of them is a volunteer.
“We are lucky in Revelstoke that a number of our members already come to volunteer with us with a lot of experience,” Shearing said.
There are Association of Canadian Mountain Guides ski guides, ski patrollers and paramedics, among others.
Revelstoke is one of the top 10 busiest teams in the province, Shearing said.
The team is overseen by Emergency Management BC. Each member is considered a public safety lifeline volunteer.
Last year, between April 2018 and April 2019, there were 1,642 callouts for Search and Rescue across the province, a number that has been increasing consistently, according to the province, who publishes statistics every year. In the 1991-1992 year, there was around 500 Search and Rescue incidents.
Search and Rescue services are always free for those involved, whether they be Canadian or visitors.
REVSAR is required to follow policies set out by Emergency Management BC. Though their members are volunteers, the local organization gets reimbursed by the province for calls that they respond to, which keeps the organization going and the equipment well maintained.
However, in 2016 and 2017, the province announced two one-time grants of $10 million and $5 million for the BC Search and Rescue Association. Those funds were shared between the provinces 80 Search and Rescue teams.
In Revelstoke the money has been used for equipment purchases and training.
Shearing said the team looked at their call history to identify areas that could use more resources, water rescue was one of them.
“Water activities are increasing in our area, I think,” Shearing said. “We have more people out on lakes.”
Next summer a newly purchased 18 ft. jet boat will be ready for the swiftwater team to use.
REVSAR also got a new bank of radios this past year, and two years ago purchased an off-road vehicle with five seats and the ability to carry a stretcher.
“That has been useful for a number of tasks on Boulder (Mountain) and Frisbee (Ridge) so far,” Shearing said.
Also new to the fleet is a snow mobile that can easily carry two people, more of a work horse sled, Shearing said.
Last year they purchased a 30 ft. trailer for gear transportation.
They also did an IT upgrade in their command centre, which is in the same building as the Revelstoke RCMP.
At the moment, REVSAR is looking for a piece of land to build a training and storage facility, though they plan to keep their space in the RCMP building as they often work closely with the RCMP.
With the new equipment and the highly trained, large team, Shearing said REVSAR is in a good place right now.
“Our members are selfless, they give a lot of their time and energy,” he said. “They are the lifeblood of the organization.”
Mental health of the team is an important consideration, Shearing said.
In cases of potentially traumatic incidents, such as fatalities or multiple fractures, REVSAR calls in the provincial Critical Incident Stress Management Team for support.
“Right now we have a really good group and it is really exciting,” Shearing said.