Chilliwack Search and Rescue just had their busiest year ever

Chilliwack SAR members responded to 86 callouts in 2014. That's about twice the number they would have be sent out on 20 years ago.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue had the busiest year on record in 2014.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue had the busiest year on record in 2014.

One of the busiest Search and Rescue teams in B.C. just completed a record year.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue members responded to 86 callouts in 2014, which is more than any other previous year, said Doug Fraser, Chilliwack SAR search manager.

The total is almost twice as many as they had 20 years years ago when the average was more like 40 to 45 per year.

“The increase in tasks has been steady, and this rising trend is not likely to change,” he pointed out.

Time is critical since these incidents require highly trained volunteer SAR members to drop everything and go. Most incidents take about five or six hours to resolve.

“Time is the precious commodity that presents an ever-increasing challenge on several fronts,” Fraser explained to the Progress.

When a hiker is missing or a swift water rescue is required and the team could be out for as little as an hour, or as many as several days.

SAR volunteers must be physically fit, with some first aid training, and free time to donate.

The local SAR team will respond at any time of day or night whether it’s atop a glacier, in a raging river or down a steep mountainside. In addition, SAR Members train every Wednesday night at their local headquarters as well as in the back country in a range of rescue disciplines.

“Time to attend community events, to present to students, and to gain new skills are just a few of the time commitments that are part of being a member of the team,” Fraser offered.

Some readers may not be aware that every member of SAR donates their time as a volunteer. They don’t get paid for callouts or for training or other events.

“In fact, many members use their personal holiday time to participate in training courses that require three, four or five days to become certified in a specific discipline,” he noted.

Some team members are self-employed; when they respond to a call they are not only donating their time, but may also be putting their livelihood on hold for the duration.

“Most of the team members are employees, so when the team is activated we have to rely on employers to be responsible partners in the social fabric of our community.”

An emergency call for SAR members is just “as real and time sensitive” as any other to police, paramedics or firefighters.

So in general it helps when outdoor enthusiasts get some training.

“Chilliwack SAR is encouraged to see more and more people who take the time to attend a training course before venturing out into the back-country,” the SAR manager noted.

They will also continue to provide Hug-a-Tree sessions to elementary-aged classes and the Survive Outside program to students in middle and secondary schools.

“Despite such efforts, accidents will continue to occur, and people will be reported as missing, lost, injured or overdue.

“Chilliwack Search and Rescue will respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.”

Find some tips on safety at their website, along with a donation link, at  www.chilliwacksar.org. More info at: www.bcsara.com or www.adventuresmart.ca or www.avalanche.ca

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno