It’s more than a hobby, more than something to do in your spare time. For the volunteer members of Kimberley Search and Rescue, it is literally life or death at times.
It takes a special person to want to be on call, ready to leave at any moment when word of someone in trouble is heard. It often means leaving in the middle of a family dinner or other special occasions.
Peter Reid, President and SAR Manager for KSAR puts it like this.
“The Thanksgiving turkey is just coming out of the oven and the search and rescue phone rings…” We have a report of two missing skiers”, says the RCMP. It’s in the backcountry and we can only imagine what we’re heading into. There’s no other information. All we know is that there is an emergency and this is what we signed up and trained for. We all leave our families and friends to go help someone in need.
“This time, two people have disappeared off the backside of the ski hill and no one has seen them since. Their cell phone is dead and it’s too dark for a helicopter tonight.
“There were jobs for all members of Kimberley Search and Rescue; teams were sent out in trucks to monitor forest service roads out of the area, other teams went in by snowmobile searching off the backside stopping only long enough to call and listen for a reply….nothing. The RCMP canine unit joined in the search and other members went out on touring skis and snowshoes. First thing in the morning, a helicopter with a spotter team was dispatched and within 30 minutes found the lost skiers trail, followed their tracks far into the back country through avalanche terrain.
“Under the tree, I see something”… the subjects were alive…huddled up under a tree.
“There were tearful hugs and thank-yous all around. They didn’t think they’d ‘make it’. They had survived a very cold night out with temperatures dipping to -18.
“Kimberley SAR worked throughout the night to find them, never giving up. Some teams ran a communications relay, others provided critical incident stress management support and first aid, and still some managed and coordinated the incident alongside the RCMP.
“This time, they were alive and the rescue was successful.
“The smile and the expression of relief, it’s the most amazing feeling when you find a subject and they give you that smile”, say many members of Kimberley Search and Rescue (KSAR). They’ve chosen this way to give back to their community. You hear this all the time you speak to the members of Kimberley SAR. They talk about the adrenalin rush of that ring tone, the camaraderie, the trust in each other and knowing that they’ve helped someone in dire need.”
If you feel that you would like to be part of this service, KSAR is currently recruiting for members.
“We are looking for people with many different skills,” Reid said. “Some who can dedicate four days a month to training and be available for call-outs on a regular basis and others who want to help behind the scenes writing grants, maintaining vehicles, book-keeping and running public relations to name just a few of the support positions”, Reid said.
KSAR covers 10,000 square kilometres of backcountry. It’s difficult terrain — mountains, valleys and rivers. All kinds of skills make up the team, from searchers and trackers to swiftwater technicians, avalanche responders and a high angle rope rescue team.
Search and Rescue is 100 per cent volunteer. Members are professionally trained and available every day, every night.
And searches are not always at home. KSAR often travels to help other SAR teams. Kimberley’s team has been involved in the search for Keinan Hebert in the Elk Valley, the Johnson’s Landing slide and further afield.
It begins with an 80-hour course through the Justice Institute of BC that gives volunteers the foundation skills to go on to specialized training.
The course covers map, compass and navigation, survival, organized searches, survival theory, and introduces human tracking, swiftwater rescue, rope rescue and avalanche response.
“You don’t have to come with a resume full of outdoor experience or be super-fit, just a desire to get outside in crazy conditions, train hard and be a team player”, says Wendy Hetherington, Training Officer and SAR Manager.
And if you are not the outdoors type but still want to contribute, KSAR requires volunteers to take care of communications, write grants, do book-keeping, coordinate fundraising and public relations and many other administrative tasks. There’s a job for everyone.
There will be an open house and orientation on Wednesday March 13, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Kimberley fire hall and everyone is welcome. Come and hear about SAR, what we do, the opportunities available and go out on a navigation course. Come dressed to go outside. Application packages will be available. For further information please feel free to call Wendy at 250-427-5998.