As a spike in search and rescue incidents the first week of this month has a B.C.-wide organization warning people to venture into the outdoors well-prepared, Hope’s own rescuers aren’t seeing a corresponding rise in calls.
According to BC AdventureSmart, the first week of May saw a 35 per cent spike in search and rescue incidents across the province, compared to the same time last year. Noelle Hartt with Hope Volunteer Search and Rescue said the organization has instead seen a lower than normal call volume.
Calls are down in particular in the area of motor vehicle accidents. Hope’s rescue team is often tasked out to highway incidents, some involving multiple vehicles, complex rescues and extrications or vehicle fires, often in challenging weather conditions.
“We would like to attribute this to people staying close to their communities and stopping non-essential travels,” she stated.
The organization attends calls within the community of Hope, along local waterways, front and backcountry, as well as local highways – up the Coquihalla Highway, towards E.C. Manning Provincial Park and up the Fraser Canyon.
With summer around the corner, Hartt added that she hopes people will continue engaging in low risk activities in the outdoors, within their own communities.
Adventure Smart has a similar message, urging people to be prepared when they venture out to avoid volunteers to have to risk coming together into big groups for a search, as well as searching or responding in a rescue situation involving a person they do not know. All of these activities present a high risk for the volunteers who form these rescue organizations.
“Those individuals put on personal protective equipment, they mask the subject and when the task is over, they have to disinfect their equipment,” senior manager with Adventure Smart BC Dwight Yochim stated. “Every step of the way they have been placed at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and now so have their families.”
Being ‘adventure smart’, the organization stated, involves being prepared when heading into the outdoors, staying local, practising physical distancing on trails and wearing personal protective equipment such as masks when needed.
“We do not want to needlessly risk exposing our members, which in turn could have devastating effects on our availability of members for call outs should we have to quarantine,” Hartt stated.
Adventure Smart reiterated the message of B.C. Premier John Horgan, asking people to explore within their own community.
– with files from Ashley Wadhwani