B.C. search and rescue groups stretched to limits with almost 2,000 missions in 2020 during pandemic

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      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and other health officials have encouraged everyone to stay close to home and explore what the local environments have to offer.

      However, as residents shifted during the pandemic from traveling abroad to exploring B.C.’s natural outdoor playgrounds, that included many people who were unfamiliar or inexperienced with heading out into the Great Outdoors, where many risks abound.

      According to the B.C. government, British Columbian ground search and rescue groups (GSAR) had the busiest year in B.C.’s history after responding to a record number of requests for assistance.

      From April 2020 to April 2021, B.C.'s 79 GSAR groups, involving volunteer crew members, were deployed 1,959 times, which represents a 25 percent increase over previous years. There were also 10 avalanche fatalities in B.C. over the past year.

      Before this past year, GSAR groups responded to about 1,500 responses every year, which is more than all of the rest of Canada combined.  

      B.C. Search and Rescue Association president Chris Kelly stated in a news release that the province’s GSAR groups have been overextended to their maximum limits.

      "COVID-19 has made risky work even more dangerous for each individual,” Kelly explained. “I implore anyone heading out into the elements to do their part by planning ahead. Make sure you're prepared for where you're going—have a plan, have the right gear, know how to use it, and take the training."

      For more information about how to prepare for heading outdoors, visit the B.C. AdventureSmart website.