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Posted: July 22, 2020

BCSARA to get annual funds starting 2022

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Emergency Management BC announced July 21 government will begin providing an annual funding contribution of $6 million to BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA).

To begin in 2022-23, the funds will be earmarked to help support the work of B.C.’s 2,500 ground search and rescue volunteers.

The funding followed some public outcry last year when search and rescue (SAR) groups around the province were being called out more often to rescue people on Crown land, but operating with small budgets, making it increasingly more difficult to provide such a valuable service to the province.

In March 2019, the B.C. government announced the single largest provincial ground search and rescue investment in B.C.’s history, along with approximately $10 million in funding provided each year for search related operational costs.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, is asking British Columbians to do their part to support search and rescue crews throughout the province by staying safe in the outdoors this summer.

“B.C.’s ground search and rescue groups have been calling for long-term, sustainable funding, and we’ve worked with them to meet this need,” Farnworth said. “But funding is only one way to show our support. Search and rescue volunteers take a risk every time they go out to rescue someone, and that risk is heightened due to COVID 19. I’m calling on all British Columbians to be safe and to make sure your family, friends and neighbours are being safe, so we can reduce the risks for everyone.”

Since January 2020, ground search and rescue volunteers have responded to more than 700 calls throughout the province.

“Every time someone takes a risk in the backcountry, by going off established trails or not being prepared, the safety of ground search and rescue volunteers is put at risk,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “These skilled and dedicated volunteers work hard, and while they will be there for people who need help, British Columbians need to do their part by being prepared and staying safe in the outdoors.”

Since 2013, BCSARA has been working with the province on a long-term approach to funding. In 2018, the government hired a consultant to review and make recommendations on a BCSARA proposal.

In response to the consultant’s recommendations, the province provided the one-time, $18.6-million investment in 2019. Budget 2020 provides for an ongoing contribution to support ground search and rescue groups starting in 2022-23.

“This announcement of sustainable funding and support for the 79 groups and their 2,500 unpaid professional members is truly a milestone for the ground search and rescue service in B.C.,” said Chris Kelly, BCSARA board president.

British Columbians are asked to do their part:

* Stay close to home on well-marked trails, while maintaining physical distancing.

* Make sure to pack the right provisions and clothing appropriate for the weather.

* When going into the outdoors, be prepared to take care of yourself and your family.

* Follow the provincial health officer’s directions.

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