Feature Story                                                                                                Thursday, September 5, 2013


'Angels in our Midst'

SAR Scene National Conference and Games coming to Chilliwack Oct 17-21

Staff/Voice photos


Colin Weibe, VP of the BC Search and Rescue Association, speaks to city council Tuesday about the upcoming conference. Below, rafters enjoy the Chilliwack River.


ou can’t have a beautiful country full of rugged and isolated terrain like in BC without having Search and Rescue (SAR) units. They’re vital for land, sea and air rescues, and the 80 teams in BC are some of the most heavily taxed in the country.


According to Colin Weibe, Vice President of the BC SAR Association, who briefed the mayor and council last Tuesday on the upcoming SAR Scene Conference, BC rescue teams have the most callouts of all the provinces.


"We actually have the busiest SAR program in the country," said Weibe. "In fact, there are more calls that happen in BC than the rest of Canada combined."


Rescue teams are made up of people willing to jump out of bed at 3 a.m. and rush out into a blinding snowstorm to save someone in a dire situation. They’re the ones who’ll brave any weather to assist a boater in distress, or they can even find a person with Alzheimer's who's wandered off.


For example; a man clings to a cliff wall after being rim-rocked. He can’t go up or down. SAR is called and a team immediately dispatched to conduct a rope rescue.


Weibe said the conference also includes the SAR Games on the 19th.


The BCSARA and the National SAR Secretariat, are co-hosting this year's annual SAR Scene Conference that takes place October 17th to 21st at the Pacific Regional Training Centre. The event will see nearly 500 delegates from around North America and abroad roll into Chilliwack.


"Quite often a contingent from the Irish Coast Guard comes out to the National SAR Conference every year," said Weibe.


The conference will offer training and also be a showcase of SAR's capabilities featuring a helicopter rescue, unmanned drones, a Buffalo aircraft, rescue dogs and the Urban Response Team among other things.


The SAR Games are a chance for delegates to take a break and have some fun competing.


"It's a one-day event and will have six SAR-related challenges that demand knowledge and quick thinking by teams of four people," he explained.


Teams facing off for the coveted cup will be scored by "qualified adjudicators".


The last time the SAR Games took place in BC was in 2007 in Victoria BC and Coquitlam won.


"They (Coquitlam) are very eager to maintain their BC pride and we're hoping that teams from the valley will be able to knock them down a couple of levels," Weibe said.


Weibe lauded the Fraser Valley branches.


“We have some of the most dedicated volunteers on the South Coast of BC here in the Fraser Valley and especially in Chilliwack,” he said.


The conference itself happens on the 20th and 21st and then its all wrapped up with a banquet where 5 awards will be handed for excellence in expertise and training, excellence in innovation, leadership, research and exemplary service.


Chilliwack SAR member and bylaw enforcement officer Roy Fawcett was recognized last year at the conference in Toronto for excellence in education and training.


“I am really thankful that this is something people can count on, and I know that most local governments join with you in asking our other levels of government to come to the forefront and make sure that you’re adequately funded for the job that you do,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.


“I know it sounds sappy to say that we have angels in our midst, but we really do.”


For more information, visit www.bcsara.com



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