Aug. 24, 2019 — Nechako Valley Search and Rescue hosted a B.C. tracking association course over the weekend. Members are shown analysing a foot print as part of the introductory course called Track Aware which was guided by Chris Mushumanski. SAR members who already have some track aware courses, were taking the Tracker course which is more advanced. There were trained by Jeni Christie, president of B.C. tracking association. “In B.C. for search, tracking is a really important skill used on many searches, especially here in the north. Having skilled trackers is really essential in reducing the area you are going to search, finding that subject faster, getting a direction of travel from where they were last seen,” Mushumanski said. (Aman Parhar photo)

Mitigating stress while being a search and rescue volunteer

The CISM program helps members dealing with stress, says SAR volunteer

When news came that there was a 4-year old missing in Mackenzie, many Search and rescue teams from across northern B.C. were called to assist in the search. Late Sunday on Aug. 18, George was found by search efforts that saw hundreds of people from the community aid search and rescue teams.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Search crews find 4-year-old boy who went missing near Mackenzie

Imagine if you were a SAR volunteer and were called on-scene to look for a 4-year old boy.

Such searches may cause stress to SAR volunteers said Chris Mushumanski, search manager with Nechako Valley Search and Rescue. And to mitigate and deal with that stress, Nechako Valley search and rescue activated their Critical Incident Stress Program (CISM).

CISM is activated when members conduct searches that could have an emotional impact on their pscyhe. Once CISM is activated, team members get together and speak about their experiences, but also actively look out for each other. Partners of NVSAR members are also notified and asked to observe their emotional well-being.

Wes Smith, a Nechako Valley SAR member was called to help in the search for George. He has a 4-year old of his own and said there was an immediate emotional connection he felt with George’s family.

“I think the shock of it all and the connection to my 4-year old were dealt by my team members. They said right off the bat, that I could step away and not be involved. And to know that, was comforting,” he said.

CISM program is really helpful in mitigating stress, he said.

“I am really glad we have it because it takes that internal piece which could be stress and that you may easily dismiss, and brings its outside. I know what to watch for now physically and mentally. And with family members and spouses being involved, they are told what to watch for, which helps a lot as family members usually can see if something is not right before you realize it,” Smith added.

Mushumanski said an important aspect of being a SAR volunteer is that they have the right to refuse taking a task that could affect them adversely.

Smith said that once he was in Mackenzie all the thoughts he had about his four-year old faded away and he focused on the task at hand.

“How can I help and what is my job here right now was what I was thinking. So that moved to the forefront,” he said.

Nechako Valley SAR members looked for George from 6 am until 6 pm on Aug. 18 but had not found the boy. Smith said as a team they decided to leave the scene as there was another SAR group who were scheduled to look for George from that time on wards. The four-year old was found shortly after.

Another SAR volunteer on the scene Eric Wallace said, “We got the news when we were on our way back and suddenly I felt the stress leave my body. My stomach was feeling a little uneasy as I was having a physical reaction to the stress. But as soon as we heard he was found, I was much more at ease.”

Wallace found the CISM program to be helpful as well. He said the fact that you can speak about the day and decompress with your team members, really helps with stressful searches.

Meanwhile, another search that involved a snowmobile accident a few years ago had SAR members activate the CISM program.

Smith said the incident involved one injured person and a deceased person.

“That was new to me. That was stressful in a different way than searching for a 4-year old. One had a bit more intensity and immediacy to it. Whereas the other was more of an internal stress of whether I can handle it, as I had never dealt with that situation before,” he said.

SAR volunteers provide a lot of support in search activities. The CISM program has been built to aid these volunteers to be able to recognize emotional stressors, Smith said.

Mushumanski said the CISM program is a way for the team to manage each other and understand what they can do to help one another return to normalcy.


Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Shuttle service moves into Vernon

Cheers Okanagan Tours has expanded its service to the Vernon area

Guns, taxes, climate change and more at Armstrong forum

The five federal candidates in the North Okanagan-Shuswap engaged with the public Wednesday night

Art After Dark may spark romance in Vernon

Vernon Public Art Gallery makes art accessible through alt-date night

‘Fuel Good Day’ pumps funds for local causes in the Okanagan

10 cents of every litre pumped at the Regional Co-ops on Tuesday was donated to non-profits

16 pot shops green-lighted by Vernon politicians

More recreational cannabis stores could be sprouting in town soon

Bears roaming around Vernon school, busy neighbourhood

Cubs spotted near elementary school, large bear seen at park

B.C. salmon farm inspection deal reached with Indigenous people

Monitoring to determine if any Broughton region farms stay open

Vehicle thefts prompt plea from Salmon Arm RCMP

Public asked to help by removing valuables and keys, locking vehicles up

LETTER: Democracy concerns must be addressed

Critical issues keep some from voting

RCMP seize $1.9 million in B.C. traffic stop

The driver and passenger were detained under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Salmon Arm theatre reduces barriers with inclusive opening of Wizard of Oz

Relaxed conventions opens experience to people with autism, dementia, sensory disorders

Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

The report describes the occasion as an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed gala event

‘Troubling, insulting’: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reacts to Trudeau’s brownface photo

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, responded with a call for love after Trudeau photos surface

Elderly B.C. man gets 10 years in prison for sexually abusing young daughters

WARNING: This story contains graphic details and is not appropriate for all readers

Most Read