People venturing into the outdoors this B.C. Day long weekend are asked to be prepared for an emergency and take into account the heat.
Sandra Riches, executive director of B.C. AdventureSmart, says our province needs to reduce its reliance on search and rescue volunteers to pull people out of trouble which could have easily been avoided.
“B.C. had 1,700 calls for search and rescue help last year, which is more than the rest of Canada combined,” Riches said.
“We need to think about those volunteers who carry out those rescues. They are not paid, they are volunteers, and they are pulled away from their friends, family and workplaces at a moment’s notice.”
Riches said the plethora of people lost in the backcountry correlates to the easy access and rugged geography of our province’s backcountry.
“The majority of our calls are not in the Interior, but on the coast where access to the backcountry is easy such as Squamish, Lions Bay, Chilliwack, North Shore and Coquitlam,” she said.
Search and rescue groups are established across the Okanagan in Kelowna, Oliver, Penticton and Vernon to deal with local area and regional emergencies.
The other trend she says AdventureSmart—which works as a public information extension of Emergency Management B.C. and the B.C. Search and Rescue Association and is based out of Burnaby with satellites centres in Kelowna and Vancouver—has noticed is people increasingly getting into trouble from making bad decisions.
“We are trying to get out the message of having better situational awareness whether you are paddling, hiking, boating or running by creeks in the backcountry or frontcountry, we need to be making better decisions out there. For example, if you are anywhere near water, creeks or streams, take note of slippery rocks along the creeks and waterfalls, ” she said, citing the one tragic rock slippage incident earlier this summer that led to the tragic death of three B.C. hikers at Shannon Falls near Squamish.
“As well the heat factor is coming more into play, as people need to be prepared for extreme heat and the potential effects of dehydration. I know on the North Shore last weekend alone, we had six calls for help related directly to the heat and the severe impact it had on those people needing help.”
Riches said all people escaping to the great outdoors need to ask themselves if they are prepared in for an emergency where help may not arrive immediately.
“Make sure you have the gear and are prepared to spend a night out there if something happens,” she said. “We want people to head out there and have fun but also not to head outdoors with a false sense of security.”
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