The capacity of the Nechako Valley Search and Rescue (SAR) team will soon be restored.
Last weekend, following the theft of more than $10,000 worth of communications and navigations gear, the SAR team received written approval for a Community Gaming Grant from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
The team submitted the grant application in August 2011.
Last month, a cache of radios, global positioning systems (GPS) and compasses was stolen from a Nechako Valley SAR vehicle awaiting repairs at a Vanderhoof mechanical shop.
Some of the grant money will be used to purchase new waterproof radios that can be used for both the team’s SAR water and ground operations.
From an optimistic standpoint, the stolen radios were of a discontinued model and were due for replacement with a higher-quality, more sophisticated version, said Nechako Valley SAR leader Chris Mushumanski.
“Top-end equipment is necessary,” he said.
“You can’t have somebody hanging on a rope, or in the middle of a river, and their radio quits on them because it was a cheap model and now lives are at risk. That’s unacceptable.”
In light of the theft, special permission from the ministry is required by the team to reallocate some of the funds to purchase new GPS, valued between $3,000 and $5,000.
The GPS are considered critical hardware and essential to SAR operations, particularly on land, said Mushumanski.
In one of the ground searches for Madison Scott, for example, Nechako Valley SAR utilized all 15 of their GPS units to map and record field data.
“When you have a larger search like that, it’s very easy to go through equipment in a real short amount of time,” said Mushumanski.
By April 2013, the team hopes to have the new GPS units in place, along with the proper operational training.
Like other teams across the province, Nechako Valley SAR doesn’t have a regular source of funding. The team provides services on a volunteer-basis, relying on fundraising, provincial grants and financial assistance from the District of Vanderhoof and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to cover ongoing expenses and operating costs.
In response to the gear theft, members of the community have come forward with donations to help replace the stolen gear.
Donations by cash or cheque, written to the Nechako Valley Search and Rescue, are being accepted at the Omineca Express at 150 W. Columbia Street, and Fountain Tire at 599 Highway 16 W. in Vanderhoof. Chris Mushumanski can also be contacted for more information at 250.567.0972.
Mushumanski also wants the community to know that the Nechako Valley SAR team is always looking for new members.
“We’re always happy to have people join us, learn about SAR and see what they can do to help serve their community,” he said.