With their task load doubling over the past few years, Penticton Search and Rescue are breathing a sigh of relief after the province announced a funding injection for operations, equipment and training.
“What that means is that over the years our teams, and teams around the province, are doing more fundraising and looking for grants. As volunteers we want to train and prepare for events when people need help and not spend so much time fundraising with our hands out,” said PENSAR manager Randy Brown. “It takes away our focus, but I do have to say everyone is dedicated and no one has complained about it.”
The money is earmarked for 80 search and rescue teams, consisting of 2,500 volunteers, from around the province to replace equipment, bolster training and operations.
It comes at the perfect time for PENSAR, who are planning to build up their team numbers from 38 people back to 50. Brown said they lose and gain people from year-to-year, meaning they need to continue to train and re-certify for swift-water training and other skills — especially as a greater number of people are getting outdoors.
“More people are coming to the South Okanagan and getting more confident using GPS and venturing in the backcountry. We have world-class climbing here, mountain biking trails and our tasks have gone up from averaging 34 per year to 60. We have also increased the technical things we do and 75 per cent of most activities are medically related, someone that has injured themselves in the backcountry,” said Brown.
One day after the funding announcement, PENSAR attended to a 30-year-old woman who broke her leg at the Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park and a helicopter long-line evacuation team was needed.
“We deployed teams to get there to help this young lady and the helicopter extraction team and it was seamless for us. That is all due to the volunteers being able to practice their efficiency at assisting in situations like this,” said Brown. “This funding helps us expand our helicopter evacuation team to keep us on top of our game.”
Brown added that he, and the rest of the volunteers, are humbled and thankful every time someone steps forward with a donation.
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