Chilliwack to host national SAR conference

Chilliwack will host 500 search and rescue delegates at a major conference next month.

Chilliwack will be the site of a major search and rescue conference next month, city council heard Tuesday.

SARscene 2013 will have nearly 500 SAR delegates from Canada and abroad flood the RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre (PRTC) in Chilliwack to show off their skills and share ideas about the latest trends and training in the field.

The B.C. search and rescue teams are the busiest in the country, and receive more calls than the rest of Canada combined. The Chilliwack SAR team is one of the nation’s oldest and busiest.

“The local search and rescue team is well-respected in the SAR community. They’re extremely active,” said Colin Weibe, vice-president of the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA). “One reason for their workload is the incredible backcountry and recreation opportunities that are available here, and I argue that Chilliwack River Valley is likely one of the busiest recreation corridors in North America.”

One day at SARscene will be dedicated to the SAR Games, where teams will compete in six intense challenges — from overnight survival skills to knot-tying to practical theory — designed to test their ground, air, and sea search and rescue skills.

“The last time this conference was held in B.C. was in Victoria in 2007, and volunteers from the Coquitlam search and rescue team won the cup,” said Wiebe. “And they are very eager to maintain their B.C. pride. We’re hoping that teams from the Valley will be able to knock them down a couple of levels.”

The general public is welcome to come see the games, as well as demos of helicopter rescues by Chilliwack SAR, unmanned aerial vehicles, and equipment displays.

The PRTC is a “perfect location” for the conference, said Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz.

“Search and rescue, from my perspective, are invaluable in that Chilliwack River Valley we hear reports almost weekly of the work that your volunteers and the others do,” said Gaetz.

Weibe added that the Fraser Valley, especially Chilliwack, has some of the most dedicated SAR volunteers in the South Coast of B.C.

The public can attend the SARscene games on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the PRTC. The entire conference will be held from Oct. 19 to 21, 2013.

BCSARA is co-hosting the event with the National Search and Rescue Secretariat.

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