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Summer funding boost for northern search and rescue

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth

Ground search and rescue (GSAR) groups in northern B.C. are preparing for the busy summer months by bolstering their operations with more than $1 million in provincial funding.

The allocation comes from the government’s unprecedented investment of $18.6 million over the next three years in GSAR in B.C. and will be used for training, support and equipment to help make northern B.C.’s outdoors safer.

“This historic level of funding fills an immediate need, so these ground search and rescue organizations can continue to do their great work,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, in a news release. “And while we help support these volunteers with more funding to do their work, British Columbians can do their part by being prepared to go into the outdoors.”

Last year, ground search and rescue groups in northern B.C. responded to more than 160 calls, helping those who were lost, stranded, injured or in trouble in British Columbia’s outdoors.

“This funding for groups allows them to cover essentials, such as personal protective equipment, specialized training and operating costs for vehicles and other equipment,” said Chris Kelly, president of the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA). “On behalf of the BCSARA board and the 80 GSAR groups in the province, we would like to thank the Government of B.C. for this continued support.”

This funding is crucial to supporting GSAR groups in northern B.C. but does not lessen the need for personal preparedness. Anyone exploring the trails, mountains and backcountry areas in the region is urged to stay safe by thinking ahead and making sure they have suitable equipment, first-aid supplies and an awareness of the risks before heading out.

The following safety tips are strongly recommended:

* Never travel alone.

* Planning ahead is a must. Before heading outdoors, leave a trip plan with family or friends and stick to that plan. For a printable copy of a trip plan, visit:

* Be prepared for the elements with the essentials, such as extra water, layers of clothing, a shelter and something to start a fire with for warmth overnight:

* Carry a signaling device (such as a whistle) so that searchers can find you even if they can’t see you, as well as communication and navigation devices like a fully charged cellphone, compass and/or GPS unit.

* Don’t venture out of bounds or off marked trails.

* Be aware of how far you have gone and when you need to turn back to avoid hiking in the dark. Be aware of the time for sunset and always carry a flashlight, just in case.

* If you become lost, do not keep moving. Stay put and wait for help. Do not presume by moving downhill that you will get back on track, as this can lead you into dangerous terrain.

There are 80 ground search and rescue groups in B.C. with approximately 2,500 volunteer members. These groups take part in more than 1,600 ground search missions each year – more than the rest of Canada combined.

This new funding is in addition to funding that the Province already provides each year – $9 million in 2017-18 – to cover GSAR operational costs for deployment, as well as training and equipment costs, and the insurance and liability costs.

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