BC Search and Rescue Association is being given $18.6 million by the province for training, equipment, operations and more as announced in Coquitlam, by the minister of public safety and solicitor general on March 23, 2019.
Chris Mushumanski, secretary of BCSARA and president of the Nechako Valley SAR here in Vanderhoof said, “This is a historic announcement for BC Search and Rescue. It is the largest injection of funds in the history of Ground SAR.”
Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general in his announcement on March 23, said the various BC Search and Rescue groups are vital for public safety in the province.
“These are men and women who give their time and expertise freely, risking themselves in some of the most dangerous situations that mother nature can offer to make sure someone in trouble can stay alive,” Farnworth said during the announcement.
Meanwhile, Mushumanski said the government has expressed strong commitment to BCSARA that they would receive funds by March 31.
A letter will be provided to the association by the province, in regard to what they would like to see the funds used for, he said.
“So once that letter is received, the funds will get distributed to the 80 Search and Rescue groups along with the BC AdventureSmart program, funding for the mental health program called Critical Incidents Stress Management and BCSARA would also be looking to hire some support staff soon,” Mushumanski added.
He said starting Monday, March 25, the association will be looking at next steps. With the previous investment that was announced in 2016 ending on March 31, Mushumanski said groups are looking for funding soon to be able to start working on plans.
“So one of the decisions that will need to be made is how much each group will be allocated, from this announced funding,” he said.
BCSARA has a funding model called the alternate support model which was also used to distribute the previous funding that the association received in 2016, Mushumanski explained.
In 2016, the province first announced a $10 million investment and a subsequent five million towards BCSARA. That gave the association $5 million per year, Mushumanski said.
With the $18.6 million, they will now have $6.2 million per year.
So through the alternate support model, funding is allocated on the basis of number of members, equipment owned and technical capabilities of it’s members, Mushumanski stated. So the amount differs from one group to another, he said.
“One of the concerns is that it will take time and delay the implementation of this first year’s funding. So very early on we will have to make that decision to make sure that the funds get out as fast as possible but the allocation amounts are going to be fair in light of all the variable I mentioned,” Mushumanski said.
He said the anticipation is that groups will get amounts that have been similar to the last three years. So for Nechako Valley Search and Rescue Society, their allocation from 2016 to 2019 was $60,000 annually.
He said the $60,000 is used by the group for specialized training and equipment costs and is an adequate amount for them to maintain their capabilities, facilities, safety, equipment and training requirements.
Nechako Valley Search and Rescue society has 30 members and have different pieces of equipment including a mobile command center, training hall. Added to that, they have different technical capabilities such as tracking, swift water rescue and flat ice rescue.
“But for something like the new building [three-bay heated garage] we have [in Vanderhoof] – that funding was not going to be sufficient. So that is where extra fundraising has to happen,” he said.
Mushumanski said the board of directors of Nechako Valley Search and Rescue Society will be meeting in the coming weeks, after they receive their allocation, to revisit the budget that was passed in their AGM earlier in the year.
“Then we can take a look at some of the needs that were not covered on that budget and make sure those needs are being addressed now,” Mushumanski added.
Lastly, he said the search and rescue community is very happy with the announcement as it addresses some of the needs and concerns that have been expressed recently. Mushumanski said that the organization would also like to thank the public for their support.
“There has been tremendous outpouring of concern and support for the SAR community across the province and locally here in Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake along with officials who expressed a strong desire to champion our issue in front of the provincial government. It’s been really humbling that that level of support has been expressed so often and across different disciplines,” he said.