It may be early to say the Shuswap Emergency Program’s ship has come in, but soon.
SEP co-ordinator Cliff Doherty says that by next summer, the area will have a Coast Guard vessel dedicated to rescue and medical transport on Shuswap and Mara lakes.
“This is the first time in B.C. that the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary will have a rescue station on fresh water,” says Doherty, noting Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Station 106 has been a presence in the Shuswap for several years, but their activities were limited to an education component.
“They’re going to transition from helping with boat safety and boat checks to helping save lives.”
The boat will be based in Sicamous, where much of the effort to secure such a vessel originated.
B.C. Ambulance Service unit chief Kathy Crandlemire says Sicamous paramedics typically receive 25-40 call from the lakes for medical assistance, starting in May and ending in October, with the busy months being June and July.
“I know I’ve been working at it for eight years to get some kind of process in place,” says Crandlemire, who explains that for at least the past 15 years, paramedics have had to rely upon local houseboat companies for on-water transport.
Crandlemire says the boat is largely intended for the areas of the lake that aren’t readily accessible by ambulance crews, areas such as Seymour Arm and Anstey Arm. But the boat is for all the Shuswap.
“As a resident of Sicamous for the past 30 years, and as an avid boater and water skier, this is fantastic, I’m absolutely thrilled,” says Crandlemire.
“It’s just getting busier on the lake, and last year, when there was the accident with the boat that crashed into the houseboat, it was really unfortunate but it just highlighted the fact that there isn’t a water rescue out there for those that are in distress on the lake and who need medical assistance.”
Recently, the Columbia Shuswap District board supported the formation of the Shuswap Lifeboat Society, which will be the governance component for Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Shuswap station 106. As a non-profit group, the society will be eligible to fundraise and apply for grants.
“Having this boat is really important for personal safety on our lakes. If a person is facing a serious medical emergency, their best chance of survival is making it to a hospital within one hour. We’re pleased to have been able to played a role in bringing this vital component of emergency response to the Shuswap,” says Doherty.