Search and rescue calls are up this year in the North Peace as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed residents to explore areas off the beaten path this summer.
North Peace search and rescue volunteers have seen 25 calls so far this year, above their average of 18 to 23.
“We’re seeing an increase in numbers throughout the whole province,” says North Peace SAR President Brian Lamond. “I think a lot of it is COVID-19 and the staycations that everyone is doing at home. They’re normally used to going to their favourite place, but not being able to. Some parks were closed, so they’re dabbling in areas they’re not used to being.”
Sixteen North Peace members were called out to Carbon Lake in Hudson’s Hope on Aug. 27 for two overdue fishermen. The team stood down en route, after it was confirmed the pair were fine — they had simply lost track of time and failed to update family friends on their whereabouts.
On Sunday, Aug. 29, members were called out to help find two missing hunters in the Toad River area. Five members started making the seven-hour trek north, but stood down after it was confirmed both hunters had been found. One was taken to Fort Nelson Hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
Lamond says the ideal is to have zero calls a year, but B.C. is known for having the highest call volumes across the country.
“We’re the most rugged province from top to bottom that there is,” he said. “We have a lot of people who recreate in the outdoors; we enjoy our province and are proud of British Columbia.”
He added North Peace SAR is planning to restart its AdventureSmart program later this month, which was put on hiatus due to the pandemic.
The program teaches individuals how to plan a destination, travel route, equipment, and expected return time; crucial information for volunteers with search and rescue. Sessions have previously been held for schools and interested organizations.
“We’re just getting into it now, and starting to do some virtual stuff, and trying to figure out some better ways to contact these people and give them some better skill sets to be able to be out there,” said Lamond.
“We’ve just been given the go ahead to do face-to-face presentations with proper precautions, and so we’re working on a strategy right now. Typically our biggest clients are the school programs,” said Lamond.
Adventure Smart is delivered nationwide, sponsored by Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada. There have been more than 11,600 participants who have gone through the program since its creation in 2004.
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