Search and Rescue crews scrambling

As of Wednesday, the unit has responded to 77 incidents during 2016.

Vernon Search and Rescue members prepare for emergencies during all seasons of the year.

Vernon Search and Rescue members prepare for emergencies during all seasons of the year.

The calls keep coming for Vernon Search and Rescue.

As of Wednesday, the unit has responded to 77 incidents during 2016.

“It’s the busiest year ever,” said Leigh Pearson, a longtime search manager.

During an average year, there are 39 calls.

Some of the increase is related to the unit’s helicopter winch team assisting in other regions, but the primary reason for more callouts is unknown.

“I’m not sure if more people are venturing out,” said Pearson.

Among those who required assistance were lost or injured hikers and snowmobilers, as well as boaters on local lakes.

There has been a significant increase in the number of individuals walking away from Vernon care homes.

“With an urban search, there are so many ways the people you are looking for can cover ground. They can get on a bus and be gone,” said Pearson.

“There are also a lot of nooks and crannies to hide in with buildings.”

Back in the bush, technology is creating some challenges.

A hiker may use a spot beacon to contact their family regularly but then the messages suddenly stop. As a result, Search and Rescue is called because it’s believed the hiker is missing or injured.

Often the hiker is fine when located but it’s discovered the beacon is no longer working.

“They were doing everything right (sending messages) but the equipment is not 100 per cent,” said Pearson.

The unit’s 60 members are volunteers and they leave their families and jobs when called out for a search.

“Our mileage is covered but there is no wage. We do it because it needs to be done and it’s the right thing to do,” said Pearson.

Beyond the searches, countless hours are spent on training and ensuring the integrity of the equipment.