The Columbia Valley Search and Rescue (CVSAR) is a volunteer, non-profit charitable society that assists local, provincial and federal agencies in ground search and rescue (SAR) operations. CVSAR supports the RCMP, B.C. Ambulance Service, local fire departments, the emergency operations centre, the coroner or other authorized tasking agencies. The local organization covers more than 10,000 square kilometers from Brisco to Canal Flats and the traditional territory of the Shuswap and Ktunaxa people. Thirty operational volunteers are on call 24/7. CVSAR recently held a few recruitments sessions in September and will train newly chosen members in the upcoming months. Volunteers must put in a serious amount of time to master skills such as search management, team leadership, swiftwater, mountain, rope, avalanche rescue and tracking. They meet most weeks at the SAR hall in Windermere, next to the fire station, to train physically and simulate operations. “It is worth noting that CVSAR operates on a 100 per cent volunteer basis, and volunteers are not reimbursed for the time they must take away from their family and work for task, training or administration,” said Roslyn Johnson, active member and CVSAR information coordinator. Additional full-day training occurs periodically on weekends throughout the year, and volunteers also participate in external training with the 78 SAR teams throughout B.C. CVSAR responds to various emergencies, including ground search and rescue, organized avalanche response, mountain rope rescue and swiftwater rescue. In addition CVSAR get asked to help municipalities when fires or floods happen.
“In the Columbia Valley our calls match the variety of recreational activities that are available here; we’ve had people call for help from all sorts of accidents from hiking, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, paddling, motorized recreation and many more,” said Johnson. CVSAR has been busier than ever before. On average, the organization usually responds to 20 to 24 calls per year. Since January 2020, they have already exceeded 30 calls. “We’ve recently had some of the busiest weekends in our recent history. On August 9th, three calls came in early this afternoon. # e fi rst was a B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS) assist on the Old Coach Trail. After BCAS was able to locate the subject, CVSAR was stood down and quickly prepared for our second call. # e second call was for an injured hiker in Bugaboos Provincial Park. Responding members fl ew to the Conrad Kain hut and extricated the subject before handing them off to BCAS. Shortly after, our third call for the day came in for a tipped canoe on Columbia Lake. A quick reloading of diff erent gear and the team took off towards Columbia Lake where they assisted the Windermere Fire Rescue boat to locate the subjects in the water.,” said Roslyn. # ere is no way to explain this increase of calls, but as Roslyn said, “It’s a numbers game; if more people are out enjoying the outdoors, we can expect more calls.” Even if the number of calls has increased dramatically in the preceding six months, the volunteer base remains the same. # e members simply must put in more time. # e base operational annual funding is provided by the provincial government. CVSAR relies on donations and grants to cover the cost of training, equipment purchases and other expenses not covered by the province. If you would like to support Columbia Valley Search and Rescue through a donation, please visit the Canada Helps CVSAR website https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/columbia-valley-disaster- services-society/ OR forward your donation to Columbia Valley Search and Rescue, P.O. Box 2123 Invermere, BC V0A 1K0. Your donation will help support vital ground search and rescue (SAR) operations in the Columbia Valley. Columbia Valley Search and rescue would like to remind the public to practice AdentureSmart techniques to stay safe on your next adventure; always remember to make a trip plan, get trained and carry the essentials.