Mike Hudson, South Columbia SAR president, (left) shows a jet boat the team acquired with funds from a provincial grant. The watercraft is equipped with side-scan and down-scan sonar, chart plotting and GPS technology to aid in water operations. (Submitted photo)

Search and Rescue receives unprecedented funding from province

South Columbia Search and Rescue increase their range with addition of jet boat, ‘Second Chance’

The province announced plans to provide a “sustainable funding model” for all 79 Search and Rescue (SAR) teams across B.C.

In March 2019, government procured the single largest provincial ground search and rescue investment in B.C.’s history, along with approximately $10 million in funding provided each year for search related operational costs.

“It’s a huge win for all of us,” said South Columbia SAR president Mike Hudson. “This year we received $64,600 in funding from the $10-million grant announced last year.

“To know now that we have this kind of funding each year moving forward allows us to financially plan better and build long term planning models to better suit our societies.”

Government is building on that commitment through Budget 2020 by providing a long-awaited, annual funding contribution of $6 million to begin in 2022-23, which will help support the work of B.C.’s 2,500 ground search and rescue volunteers.

“Our organizations rely so much on our annual grant funding and organizations that are willing to help and now, as of 2022, the sustainable funding announcement,” said Hudson. “These funds will be crucial for all groups to upgrade equipment, build SAR Halls, obtain new vehicles, and supply crucial and cutting-edge training to our members.”

South Columbia SAR put the funds to good use, securing “Second Chance,” a jet boat that will extend their range and efficiency in emergency situations.

“This new boat is a 250-Hp Jet Boat with all the bells and whistles including side-scan and down-scan sonar, chart plotting and GPS technology to help aid in water operations,” explained Hudson. “We will also now be able to provide emergency flood rescue operations with our new boat as it is jet drive engine. Our current watercraft is prop driven and prevents us from operating in flood environments due to the amount of debris in flood conditions.”

BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) reported that volunteers across the province were sent out 110 times in the first two weeks of July alone – a 50 per cent increase over the same period last year.

Since January 2020, ground search and rescue volunteers have responded to more than 700 calls throughout the province.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is asking British Columbians to do their part to support search and rescue crews throughout the province by staying safe in the outdoors this summer.

“B.C.’s ground search and rescue groups have been calling for long-term, sustainable funding, and we’ve worked with them to meet this need,” Farnworth said. “But funding is only one way to show our support. Search and rescue volunteers take a risk every time they go out to rescue someone, and that risk is heightened due to COVID 19. I’m calling on all British Columbians to be safe and to make sure your family, friends and neighbours are being safe, so we can reduce the risks for everyone.”

Since 2013, BCSARA has been working with the Province on a long-term approach to funding. In 2018, the government hired a consultant to review and make recommendations on a BCSARA proposal. In response to the consultant’s recommendations, the Province provided the one-time, $18.6-million investment in 2019. Budget 2020 provides for an ongoing contribution to support ground search and rescue groups starting in 2022-23.

“This announcement of sustainable funding and support for the 79 groups and their 2,500 unpaid professional members is truly a milestone for the ground search and rescue service in B.C.,” said Chris Kelly, president, on behalf of the BCSARA board.

Hudson would also like to extend his thanks to the Vernon Search and Rescue for their assistance in securing the new watercraft.

Related read: BC search and rescue respond to 700 calls in first half of 2020

Related read: BC sees spike in search and rescue calls



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