Search and rescue groups urge people to think twice about outdoor adventures this weekend
Published Thursday, April 9, 2020 1:59PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Thinking of heading out for an adventure in the B.C. wilderness this weekend? The BC Search and Rescue Association wants you to reconsider.
Typically, the Easter long weekend is one of the busiest times of year for rescue groups, and they are urging everyone to use extra caution to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep the number of requests for help low.
"BCSARA would like to remind the public, now is not the time to venture into B.C.'s wilderness. Like the province of B.C. has said, explore B.C…later," the BCSARA said in a news release.
BC AdventureSmart has echoed the same concerns and is encouraging people to stay close to home and choose lower-risk "local" activities for everyone's safety, including rescuers.
"(Ground search and rescue) groups across the province have halted training to avoid the risk of spreading COVID-19 and are conducting online training and meetings to ensure they are ready should they receive a call for assistance," said BCSARA. "However, that self-imposed isolation is lost when they answer the call for help and 20 to 30 members come together to assist in the rescue of someone they do not know."
Even though SAR personnel also have protocols in place to limit the number of members who interact with the lost or injured person, it still puts them at risk.
"When called out, these search and rescue personnel try to maintain a distance of two metres from each other," said Dwight Yochim, senior manager of the BCSARA. He said groups also limit the number of members who interact with the lost or injured person, wear personal protective equipment, put a mask on the person being rescued, and disinfect all their gear.
"Every step of the way, they have been placed at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and now so have their families," he said.
B.C. search and rescue groups respond to an average of 121 calls in April, and the association said it's been encouraged to see a 50 per cent reduction in calls during the first week of the month compared to last year. But the group says more can be done and would like to see that number drop to zero, something the president of the BCSARA says hasn't happened for "as long as (he) can remember."
The warning from search and rescue comes the day after the provincial government announced the closure of all provincial parks in B.C. Additionally, several roads close to popular outdoor recreation areas in the District of North Vancouver will also be closed to the public as of Friday to deter visitors.