Houston search and rescue (SAR) will speed up and improve services thanks to new equipment.
At the monthly SAR meeting last week Wednesday, Director Andy Muma showed off one of the four iPad’s the group is buying and explained how it will benefit the group.
“These devices will do everything,” said Muma, adding that they cost $530 compared to the $400 GPS’s they had originally planned to buy.
They can eliminate paper forms and maps, do better tracking, and speed up the initial search response, said Muma.
“I think we can cut the search response time from hours down to minutes,” he said, adding that it will also be better for untrained volunteers who help with a search, because it is simple to use and compatible with iPhones and other devices that people are already familiar with.
SAR Director Robert Onderwater says iPads also have much more up-to-date and detailed maps, so they will be able to see obstacles that paper maps don’t show.
Besides four iPads, SAR also bought harnesses, several avalanche beacons, an avalanche probe and a shovel, said President Frank McDonald, adding that equipment is all paid for through grants and donations.
At the meeting, McDonald thanked local Credit Union staff Tanya Amonson and Laury Williams, and Regional District Director Rob Newell, who donated funds toward the equipment.
“It’s you guys who do the real work,” said Amonson, adding that their service to the community is much appreciated.
SAR services add so much to the safety of the community, she said.
SAR operations and training
Houston SAR started up 1978 after a search for two boys on Buck Flats Road ended with the death of one of them, and then SAR restructured in 2000.
SAR has 20 volun- teer members aged 16 and 75, and meets the second Wednesday of every month for train- ing, McDonald said.
Wendall Ewald, SAR instructor with McDonald, says at meetings they do basic ground search and res- cue training, working through an Emergency Management B.C. and Justice Institute of B.C. manual.
The course teache- types of searches, how searches start, prog- ress and end, how to use maps, radios, ropes and compasses, and some basic survival skills and preparation, McDonald said.
It is broken into four sections, each with a test, and once someone passes the tests they are GSAR certified, and then they can take more courses like rope rescue, ava- lanche rescue or swift water rescue, put on and paid for by the Justice Institute.
SAR gets called out by RCMP, contacts the provincial manage-
ment program (PEP) and gets a tracking number, which gives them insurance if equipment is broken or people are hurt in the search, Ewald said.
Then SAR gives a call out to need- ed members, and McDonald, search manager, organizes a search, different de- pending on the situa- tion, said Ewald.
Ewald says usually they have three man groups search specific areas, but sometimes they do grid searches, where everybody lines up 10 metres apart, and they cover a whole area.
RCMP initiate co-op training with SAR
RCMP Sgt. Rose talked to local Search and Rescue group about training togeth- er so that their work can run more smooth- ly during emergencies.
“I will be the first one to say the police rarely can operate when it comes to miss- ing persons or evi- dence searches with- out search and rescue,” sad Sgt. Rose.
Sgt. Rose says he
wants RCMP to train with SAR so that they know each other’s roles and responsibili- ties, and can help each other as they progress through a search.
It will also be good so RCMP knows SAR’scapabilitiesand when it would be help- ful to use their servic- es, said Sgt. Rose.
“I think that is a great idea,” said SAR Director Andy Muma,
adding that it will be helpful when they start training with the iPad’s to compare notes and make sure SAR and RCMP records match up.
“It’s important for police and SAR to work together. You guys are a support service to us and ul- timately we need to know what it is you have to offer,” Sgt. Rose said.