More people are getting lost in the wilderness and are reaching out to search and rescue crews to save them, says the B.C. Search and Rescue Association.
The association’s statistics show the number of search and rescue incidents on air, land and water in B.C. jumped from just above 400 in 1991-92 – to more than four times that – 1,600 – in 2016-17.
One of the reasons for the increase is that B.C. is just too beautiful, says Sandra Riches, with AdventureSmart. People see pictures of spectacular scenery online and want to get to the same spot. But, “a lot of visitors don’t know what it took to get there.”
Easy access to the back country can also get people into trouble. People can fly into Vancouver International Airport and be into the mountains and trails within a few hours. But that easy access to the outdoors can lead to a false sense of security about the outdoors.
“We’ve noticed an increase in new Canadians that are subjects that have been rescued.” Her job is to target search and rescue or the AdventureSmart information to those different languages so everyone understands the risks.
“Targeting definitely visitors, or if it’s a just short visit, or if they’re moving here, we need to know where they’re wanting to play, because they’re actually coming here to enjoy the outdoors. That’s why they’re moving here and visiting.”
More winter activities are also drawing more people to the hills. As many as 2,000 people a day go to on to one trail on Mount Seymour snowshoeing, she added.
Search and rescue squads will be collecting data so that there’s more certainty about where the call increase is coming from. That will allow AdventureSmart, created by B.C. Search and Rescue, to target its information campaigns so people are aware of the hazards.
Population growth is another reason for the four-fold increase.
Riches noted that B.C. has more search and rescue calls per year than the rest of the Canada combined. “We have an active, healthy province.”
It’s difficult to say if there’s a correlation between the increased use of cellphones and greater numbers of calls to search and rescue crews.
Rick Laing, with Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, said cellphones can spare some callouts because people are able to reach others and explain why they’re late.
On the other hand, it’s also easier to call if someone gets into trouble.
He doesn’t think people are making frivilous calls to search and rescue in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows area but has heard of that in other areas.
“We’re sometimes our own worst enemy. We’ll go out at the drop of a hat.”
The latest stats are valid up to March 2017 but don’t record all body recoveries or incidents when search and rescue crews help with evacuations.
B.C. Search and Rescue has an #AdventureSmart prevention program to help reduce unnecessary and preventable ground SAR calls and has a message of #3Ts Train, Trip plan and Take the essentials. More information is at www.adventuresmart.ca.