The B.C. government will be asked for increased funding for training the province’s busy search-and-rescue teams.
But Don Bindon, president of the B.C. Search and Rescue Association, said its report will not ask the government to overhaul the system, as was recently suggested by Tim Jones, head of North Shore Rescue.
“I adamantly do not think the system is broken,” said Mr. Bindon, who has worked in volunteer search and rescue for 18 years. “We think the program is a good one, but it needs to be tweaked every once in a while.”
Mr. Jones, a highly respected search-and-rescue figure, called last week for major changes to the system, saying it is time to consider paying salaries to key volunteers and providing dedicated helicopters. “This is millions of dollars and a cultural shift,” he said of his proposal. “It’s going to take years to implement this and to have discussions to figure out how to do this.”
Mr. Bindon said a two-year, detailed review of the system has just been completed and it points to a need for much less dramatic changes than those sought by Mr. Jones. “He’s a very valued member of search and rescue and so in that sense we don’t automatically discount what he has to say,” he said. “But I think it’s a very good system and it’s served the people of British Columbia very, very well.”
Mr. Bindon said his association will not recommend to the government that some volunteers be paid. But he said it will request more money for training and a streamlined system for getting funds, although he declined to release figures, saying government officials have not yet had a chance to see the report.
He said the review involved input from all of the 80 teams in the province, which are run by 2,500 to 3,000 volunteers.
B.C., which has rugged terrain and an active outdoors community, annually gets about 1,300 search-and-rescue calls – “which is more than the rest of Canada combined,” Mr. Bindon said.
But he said the B.C. Search and Rescue Association is also the best funded in the country, with about $600,000 for training and $7-million in funding for operations. “I can tell you without fear of contradiction that most of our colleagues across the country are staggered at what we receive [in government support],” he said.