Every member of our group is trained to high degree of proficiency in Ground Search and Rescue techniques. All members take part in a 90-hour Justice Institute training program to acquire the basic skills required of certified SAR volunteers. As our core resource, these are the skills the public and the RCMP (and agencies such as BC Ambulance Service) rely on to assist or find people.
To maintain a high level of skill proficiency and gear inventory for various tactical search and or rescue situations, our members put countless volunteer hours towards group training, specialty team training, SAR Management, planning, organization, gear maintenance, supply inventories, and society governance.
In addition to the basic Ground Search skills required, through additional training, many of our members are also trained in the following specialty skill disciplines:
The art and science of observing clues left behind to track lost people.
Tracking is a very old and very useful technique for finding a lost person. It can vastly reduce the number of people and the amount of time it takes to find a lost person, but it is a skill that takes training and practise. SAR tracking certification and training are managed by the BC Tracking Association, a BCSARA member group. Various levels of certification are offered from Tracker 1, 2 and 3 to Sign Cutter.
Ground Search & Rescue
The team’s skills start with Ground and Inland Water (lakes & rivers). Skills for effectively finding and rescuing people from deep forests, mountain trails, lake shores, and river banks.
The Cowichan, Koksilah and Chemainus Rivers provide lots of potential for trouble.
Swift water is any moving water that has the possibility of knocking someone off their feet. BC is a province full of rivers and streams and has a significant flooding event every year with ice melt (see the BC River forecast centre for more information on this).
There is a significant amount of exposure to swift water in the form of fishing, boating, kayaking and white water rafting in BC and there is a need for rescue services both for members of the public, and to keep SAR volunteers safe while searching river banks.
Swift Water Rescue training is very involved, with some courses lasting several days and covering aspects such as boat operations, shoreline rescue, disentanglement, swimming and “line across” techniques. Certifications from operations to instructor are offered.
The opportunity for avalanche hazard exists in the west Lake Cowichan area, and our members are available to other SAR groups.
Similar to ice rescue, most of BC has significant snow during the winter, and any operations on snow on slopes over a certain angle (steepness) involve the possibility of an avalanche. Training is required in BC for all operations in avalanche terrain regardless of the kind of rescue (avalanche or otherwise) being performed because SAR members have to travel through the avalanche hazard even if they are looking for a lost person.
Basic Avalanche rescue training involves terrain analysis, safe travel techniques, and rescue skills with avalanche transceivers, probes and shoves. Advanced training includes managing teams of people for a rescue, and team leadership. Even more advanced training is offered through the Canadian Avalanche Association’s specialized Avalanche Operations courses.
High Angle Rescue
With mountain peaks encompassing the valley, and various other steep terrain, our group is trained to access hard to reach places only accessible by using ropes.
Rope rescue refers to any rescue where a rope is required to safely move the subject, the rescuer, or both. This may be on terrain where the slope is over a certain angle, on vertical terrain, or in areas where a slip or fall will have drastic consequences.
Rope rescue courses in BC teach a top-down, dual rope “static” system that is similar to many other regions in the world. Training standards are high, with certifications for team member, team leader and instructor.
With all of these rescue techniques, there has to be some organization behind it all, and that is the role of the SAR Manager.
Far from being paid, these individuals are experienced searchers who had risen through the ranks to become trained incident commanders, proficient in understanding maps, search theory, and the tactics and strategies for find all manner of missing persons.
SAR Managers in BC take specialized courses in the Incident Command System (ICS), and working side by side with the RCMP and police, BC Coroner’s service, and other emergency responders, are responsible for the safety of their respective search groups. Some searches in BC can last for days and involve thousands of square kilometres of wilderness, and these highly trained volunteers run those searches.