Kimberley Search and Rescue’s president Peter Reid and director Wendy Heatherington have been recognized for their nearly two decades of service with Challenge Coins from the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association BCSARA.
Reid said that these coins were created a number of years ago when BCSARA decided that there wasn’t a good enough job being done acknowledging the leaders within their community.
“There was a lot of kind of patting on the back, but there was no real acknowledgement beyond that,” Reid explained. “And what the program was designed to do was to show a level of appreciation that followed a military tradition of providing people that have been extraordinary, or strong, or long-term leaders within the community a symbol of that commitment and dedication.
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“Certainly it’s an honoured tradition within our organization and with other organizations, so it’s a sign of respect and it’s an acknowledgement of a lot of time and effort put into bettering our organization.”
Reid spoke about the many reasons for which Heatherington was acknowledged, describing her as often “quietly sitting in the corner doing a whole bunch of things for SAR that she might not necessarily take credit for.”
For example, she was responsible for and was on the committee that oversaw the revamp of the Ground Search Program across the country.
She was also on the committee for the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada, a more overarching national SAR organization. She’s been involved as a leader for Kimberley SAR for 19 years, spending several years as the regional director in the East Kootenay and was the chair of a training committee at the provincial level, ensuring that SAR was providing consistent training. This then grew into the organization that is still utilized today, the BCSARA training committee.
Currently she is a coordinator and a member of the SAR review board, where they analyze searches and pinpoint things that can be improved upon. Part of those review led to the creation of the SAR Manager 2 program, which she spearheaded. They act as consultants and come in to help when regional or local resources may be stretched thin on large-scale searches or incidents.
She’s also been on the forefront of women stepping into strong leadership roles within SAR.
Reid was rather humble and said with a laugh that he wasn’t quite sure why he was awarded with a Challenge Coin.
“I’ve been a strong advocate of SAR within our province, I’m a great believer in what we do and in acknowledging the effort that’s put in by these professional volunteers that I’m still confused about why they’re not paid, but I understand that this is a long-held tradition,” Reid said. “I don’t know if they were just worried about me getting my feelings hurt, or what that whole coin was, but I feel quite honoured to have gotten it, I don’t know if I feel particularly deserving of it.”
He added that he does what he does because of the indescribable feeling there is after finding someone and rescuing them, or even when able to provide friends or family members with closure in the tragic event of a body recovery.
Reid has been instrumental in increasing the level of professionalism within SAR, including looking at new tool adoption, such as software, as well as driving the organization up to a level where, as he puts it, they become indistinguishable from any other emergency service responder.
For both of them, the work itself has obviously been rewarding enough to keep them at it for nearly two decades, and Kimberley SAR only continues to get stronger.
“We started this as a couple thing, we just thought this would be fun to give back to our community, we didn’t realize it would end up owning our lives,” Reid said. “We’re 20 years in and we’ve gone through some ups and downs within the team and we’re really excited about some of the new recruits in SAR in Kimberley.”
He said they have a lot of strong, industry based people coming into their organization from the avalanche industry, as well as from forestry and wildfire work, all of whom are very experienced and very enthusiastic.
“I’m quite stoked at the youth that is being involved,” Reid said. “And if you think about it, it’s a volunteer organization, and yet we have people who I think have a hard time making their mortgages still volunteering their time, which is amazing.”
In terms of the past summer Kimberley SAR has had, Reid said that while the rest of the province has been exceptionally busy, Kimberley was not, and had about the same call volume has last year.
This was partly due to the fact that the wildfire situation here did not get quite as bad as it did elsewhere in B.C.
That’s not to say they didn’t carry out multiple evacuations and body recoveries, like they normally do, but the fact that they weren’t totally slammed allowed them to work on some projects, including the command unit they’re building. This will allow them to respond to large events and lend it out to other agencies as they need it.
Currently, Reid says that what SAR is seeing is an uptick in “overdue hunters.”
“Because hunters are never lost, let’s just be clear, they’re just overdue,” he said.
Kimberley SAR has had several calls where they were then asked to stand down, but the message he wants to get out is that everyone should have a trip plan, whether you’re hunting or not. Let a friend or loved one know where you will be and when you will be back.
For that friend or loved one, if the person doesn’t show up when they’re supposed to, don’t wait, call SAR or 911 right away, who will dispatch SAR.
There is no charge for rescue.
“If we have to get stood down, not a big whoop, just imagine a situation where somebody is injured, loved one delays and because of that delay, the medical impact to the person is highly negative. We need to get on the ground and moving, if we get stood down, we’re happy to get stood down.”
Make sure to bring a communication device into the wilderness with you, know the 10-digit non-emergency number for police, 250-427-4811 and use AdventureSmart’s Trip Plan App.