Anyone lost at Canada Education Park in Chilliwack this weekend would have been in excellent hands. About 350 search and rescue personnel, representing every province and territory in Canada, were on hand at the RCMP's Pacific Region Training Centre (PRTC) for SARScene.
The annual national search and rescue conference featured live demonstrations, including a longline helicopter rescue simulation by Chilliwack SAR, and a demonstration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The conference also boasted seminars, a trade show and the SAR Games, which saw four-person teams from across the country take on six SAR challenges for points.
The conference last visited B.C. in 2007, when it was held in Victoria.
But the success of the local instalment had many participants calling for the conference to be held in Chilliwack again next time it returns to B.C., according to BC Search and Rescue Association secretary Chris Kelly.
"That's not from one or two people; that's from 30 or 40," he said. "The PRTC facility was fantastic because everything's on site, and the staff here was excellent."
For the Chilliwack and Kent Harrison SARs, some of the busiest teams in the country, the exposure that came with hosting the event was invaluable.
"Funding is huge. Our funding comes through gaming grants and money from the province," Chilliwack SAR vice-president Kevin Dirks told the Times. "To put this on in our own backyard, helps us with our cause, puts the awareness out."
For all search and rescue organizations, the conference is a chance to make connections and share ideas.
The Chilliwack team might have more know-how when it comes to rescues in dense brush, for example, Dirks said, while a team from Manitoba might be able to teach a Fraser Valley team a thing or two about cold weather rescues.
Chilliwack SAR also got a chance to show off its considerable skill at using helicopters to pluck hapless hikers out of trouble during a HETS (Helicopter External Tranport System) demonstration Saturday.
"That's kind of our showcase," Dirks said. "We have a very proficient helicopter rescue team."
Even with all the activity at PRTC over the weekend, however, local search and rescue volunteers never let down their guard, Dirks said.
"With the good weather that we've had, we were prepared to go at a moment's notice."
© Copyright 2013