Avoid challenging hikes and climbs during COVID-19 pandemic: BC Search and Rescue Association
VANCOUVER -- Members of search and rescue organizations in British Columbia have not seen the number of calls go down, despite stay-at-home recommendations from officials.
“The number of rescues has not gone down at all, “ said Dwight Yochim, senior manager with the BC Search and Rescue Association. “That is our concern.”
Like many British Columbians, Yochim has seen how empty the streets are these days. But when it comes to the back country, it’s a different story.
SAR crews are now telling people to go outside if you need to, but consider who else you put in danger if you get hurt or lost.
“Every time our crews are called out that brings 20 to 30 of the members together,” Tochim said.
He said this will force members into a vulnerable position by having to work in a large group to carry out a rescue.
“This definitely isn’t a time to push your recreation limits,” said Sandra Riches, executive director of Adventure Smart BC.
Riches urges people not to use extra time off from work to tackle a big climb or hike.
“We want everyone to come back down into first gear and not continue to go further, go bigger, or go faster,” she said.
SAR groups have a limited amount of masks and other personal protective equipment available to them to use if they are put into a position where they need to help a subject who has COVID-19 symptoms. Like many organizations around the world, SAR teams are now short on N-95 respirator masks, the mask that is most effective in filtering out airborne particles.
Yochim said they will ask every subject questions about fever, cough, or whether they were exposed to someone with the virus.
“If the answer is yes, our teams will suit up and put on proper protective equipment,” he said. “They will treat the subject as if they are infected — but that puts our members at risk.”