Chilliwack Search and Rescue is calling it a case of “misinformation,” that could have been avoided with a little planning.
The second busiest SAR team in the province spent 12 hours on Sunday searching for two hikers who were reportedly headed toward Flora Lake in Chilliwack’s vast back country.
“We did find these people,” said Doug Fraser, CSAR search manager. “They were just fine.”
Turned out they’d had a nice hike during day and had arrived prepared to spend the night in a tent.
But one of the hiker’s contacts had mistakenly called it into RCMP that the couple was due back Sunday night at about 10:30 p.m.
That was the nugget of misinformation.
When the pair didn’t return home, RCMP called it in, and it triggered a search that involved 25 members of CSAR.
Searchers set up their command vehicle at the trailhead parking for Lindeman, Greendrop and Flora Lakes.
The volunteers spent the night hiking, calling and trying to put eyes on the pair of hikers who had gone most of the way up the trail to the high point of Flora Lake.
When they came through the area away from the trail that the couple had set up camp for the night, the sleeping hikers did not hear the whistle blasts or shouts of those out looking for them at about 3 a.m.
Luckily this kind of case, where SAR goes out searching for what turns out to be nothing at all, only happens a few times a year.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Fraser said. “But during the search, we’re doing what we should to be doing, which is treating it like an emergency.”
Still the whole situation would not have happened if the hikers had used the new ‘trip planner’ tool now available the newly updated Chilliwack Search and Rescue website.
“It only takes a few minutes to fill it out,” said Fraser.
The message here for the public to take away is that it is not sufficient to verbally tell someone trip information before heading out for a hike or adventure.
“People can mishear things. You have to write it down, or fill out of the trip planner online with the precise details,” he said.
As soon as they hit ‘submit’ on the trip planner, one copy is fired off to the hiker’s home computer, while the other goes to the sender’s emergency contacts.
The info can be detailed, with the hiking route and equipment being packed. Or brief, offering just the destination, and expected time of return.
“The key is telling people who your emergency contacts are, where you are going, and what time approximately that you expect to be back. Those are the most important details,” said Fraser.
The trip planner is all part of CSAR’s spiffy new website designed by local company, One Yellow Tree. The new thrust is on public safety.
Whereas the older version of the site focused on the history, training and volunteer requirements, this latest, sleeker version is focused on features meant to keep the public safe, said Fraser.
It’s completely geared to educating the public in a new way.
“That information is still there, but it’s not as much the focus anymore. As far as I know we were the first team to include this trip planning tool on our site,” said Fraser.
“So we’re telling people to use this trip planning tool to help yourself, and if need be, it helps us to help you, in the case of a search.”
Coun. Sam Waddington, owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors, had high praise for the new trip planner tool.
“This is huge,” he said.
Chilliwack SAR is pioneering it for the entire province, and he expects to see it rolled out provincially down the line.
“It’s all about mitigating risk in the back country,” said Waddington. “As we promote getting out in the back country, we need to find ways to help people stay safe. Their new tool is phenomenal.”