B.C. Search and Rescue teams ask for money after record number of missions

B.C. Search and Rescue Association says it’s been a record breaking year with 952 rescues since April

By The Early Edition, CBC News Posted: Oct 06, 2015 11:01 AM PT Last Updated: Oct 06, 2015 11:02 AM PT

North Shore Rescue says it has responded to 115 rescues in 2015. They typically respond to 100 calls a year. (North Shore Rescue)

B.C. search and rescue teams have set out on a record number of missions this year and volunteers say they are exhausted from the lack of adequate funding.

From April 1 to date there have been 952 rescues — surpassing last year’s record breaking number of 824 rescues.

North Shore Search and Rescue took part in five rescues over the weekend alone and a sixth call came in on Monday evening. It says the unprecedented number of calls this year has taxed its resources. The team alone has responded to over 119 rescues in 2015 — typically it responds to 100 incidents a year.

“We want stable funding, absolutely. Things have been the way they are for a very long-time,” said Mike Danks with North Shore Search and Rescue.

The B.C. Search and Rescue Association is looking to establish stable public funding for local search teams, which are run by volunteers. Currently, money comes from a variety of sources including volunteers asking for donations.

“It puts a lot of pressure on SAR volunteers and the executives of the SAR groups,” said Jim McAllister, director of British Columbia Search and Rescue Association.

There are over 2,500 search and rescue volunteers in B.C. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Emergency Management B.C. and the RCMP provide funding for core training and response costs such as launching a helicopter.

While local groups receive some funding from gambling and lottery grants, they also have to set up fundraisers and ask for donations.

“They have to go out and apply every year [for grants] and they can’t count on getting that money. Sometimes it is cut back because they hold too much money in the bank because they are saving money to buy equipment,” said McAllister.

The organization has proposed a centralized annual fund that could potentially see money come from gambling proceeds.

“We want to set up a fund that is enshrined in the legislation that has a known amount that comes in every year and the board manages that and puts funds out to the groups,” said McAllister.

The association would give the money to the 80 different search and rescue teams across the province based on the number and type of calls they receive.

Local rescue teams are looking at the draft and providing their input before the proposal is presented to the province.

Search and rescue members say not only do they have to respond to calls but they also have to spend their time applying for grants. (Rafferty Baker/CBC )