The Province is providing $18.6 million in one-time funding to ground search and rescue (GSAR) groups throughout the province to be used over the next three years.

The Province is providing $18.6 million in one-time funding to ground search and rescue (GSAR) groups throughout the province to be used over the next three years.

Last minute search and rescue funding announcement was ‘shocking,’ says Hope’s group

The goverment has stepped up with $18.6 million over three years for B.C.’s ground SAR groups

With the budget already tabled and only days left before the previous government’s funding was scheduled to run out, the president of Hope Search and Rescue (SAR) says she was shocked to learn B.C.’s SAR groups were going to continue to receive provincial dollars.

“I was shocked to hear about the $18.6 million,” said Noelle Hartt, “but I’m pleased with the recent announcement. And we just really appreciate all the hard work, especially from the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), they’ve done a lot.”

On Saturday, Mar. 23, in Coquitlam, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnsworth, announced a multi-million, one-time financial contribution to fund ground SAR groups throughout the province over the next three years.

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“In discussions with BCSARA, I’ve heard the ground search and rescue community’s strong concerns about the need for both an immediate infusion of funding and a clearer path toward long-term sustainable funding,” said Farnworth.

“That’s why we’re providing a record-level of funding as an immediate top-up of what B.C.’s (ground) SAR groups are already receiving, as well as establishing a joint committee to move more quickly toward developing a sustainable funding model.”

Representatives from Emergency Management BC and BCSARA will create a partnership committee, which will set policy direction and consistent standards for search and rescue, and a management committee, which will make joint decisions on the distribution of funding to B.C.’s 80 search and rescue groups.

“That’s the big component that we’re excited about,” said Hartt. “A joint committee sounds promising and having (a sustainable funding model) already in place will be something that will benefit the province once the three years runs out.

“This funding announcement just takes an immense amount of pressure off our board members who already (commit so much of their time) on top of responding to the at least 80 calls we do a year,” continued Hartt.

“The government had so much pressure put on it by search and rescue and other groups who said it’s absolutely critical this funding be available,” said Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola.

The people who volunteer their time to save others “should not be having bake sales to fund their services, so we had the appropriate response from government. It’s absolutely appropriate that the government stepped up and funded the program.”

This funding will help the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) and ground SAR groups bolster training, provide administrative support and equipment renewals. It also will support the Province and BCSARA in work to develop and implement a new governance and funding model with the help of two additional staff positions funded by Emergency Management BC.

The single largest provincial ground SAR investment in B.C.’s history—a 24% increase from $5 million per year in supplemental funding announced in 2016—the $18.6 million is in addition to the funding—$9 million in 2017/18—the province already provides annually to cover deployment costs, and the insurance and liability for the 80 groups serving British Columbia.

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“On behalf of the 80 ground search and rescue groups and 2,500 members across the province, our thanks to the provincial government for the single largest influx of funding for search and rescue to date,” said Chris Kelly, president, BCSARA.

“The funds will provide critical core supports over the next three years, while final details are completed in the short term on a sustainable model,” he continued.

“This definitely gives us the ability to focus on our professional specialty training, maintaining our equipment, and allowing us to purchase new tools and gear, like new personal protection equipment, hand held thermal imaging devices, security (for our shop), and a satellite system for the command trailer that would allow members to keep in touch when out of cell range,” said Hartt.

“Over the long range, with steady money coming in we can plan for the future, which we haven’t had the ability to do before because we didn’t know how much we were going to get or where the money was going to come from.”

The Province’s 2,500 registered search and rescue volunteers provide a vital public safety service for citizens and visitors, responding to more than 1,600 incidents each year.

For more information about Hope SAR, please visit HopeSAR.com.


 

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