BV SAR introduces recruits to new environments

The Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue are ramping up efforts to rope in volunteers for the upcoming season.

They will be hosting an open house this month to encourage new members to join.

“We had some calls this year, we got called to Tatogga Lake and two medical rescues that we were called out for,” said Michael Williams, training officer and search manager with the BV SAR.

“Having people here is a good thing because sometimes we couldn’t do it with any less people [than what] came out. Anybody is able to help in some shape or form.”

There are roughly 15 to 20 volunteer members with the BV SAR, some who have been with the team for more than 10 years and others who have only joined within the last year.

Each region has a certain set of skills that they focus on depending on the terrain.

The BV SAR focuses on swift water rescue, rope rescue and ground search and rescue.

It meets twice a month for ground SAR training, and the swift water and rope teams meet once or twice a month at the search and rescue hall located in the basement of the Ranger Park building.

They will often go to different areas around Smithers, depending on the scenario.

“The terrain here [in Smithers] is very versatile and can accommodate many different training scenarios, so it’s very useful that way,” said Williams.

Occasionally they have the opportunity to travel to Prince George, the Lower Mainland or other areas in northern B.C. and train with other SAR teams.

Steve Jennings, a member and co-coordinator of the swift water rescue team, said they have seen an increase in the number of people joining the swift water team.

“In the past year, our capacity and number of members that come out to practices has gone up. We’ve really rejuvenated the team,” said Jennings. “We’ve really rebuilt our capacity and done a lot of training in 2014.”

According to Williams, BV SAR is working hard to outfit members with the latest technologies to help with recruitment.

“Swift water SAR have been growing in their capability and equipment standards. Right now, we’re transitioning into employing new standards for the province. We’ve got some inflatable kayaks and a cataraft,” he said.

The rope rescue team was recently outfitted with all the gear they would need to complete rope rescues over cliff edges.

Last month, ground SAR also received in-reach devices that communicate with satellites to allow members to send text messages and emails and sync them to smart phones or tablets in areas where there is no reception.

For Jennings, being a part of the team provides a chance to use his skills in new environments.

“There’s lots of opportunities to learn new skills,” said Jennings. “Just the opportunities to go out in river environments and understand what’s going on with the rivers and figure out how to help people in need.”

Williams agreed with Jennings’ assertions.

“Just realizing the different environments that you can work in and how to problem solve through different types of terrain and the type of terrain that you encounter has added to my base of knowledge,” said Williams.

The open house is Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the search and rescue hall at 7 p.m.

“If you are someone who has been in the outdoors lots, we welcome those skills and if you’re brand new, don’t feel intimidated. We will be able to share with you the skills that you’ll need for SAR,” added Williams.