The Provincial Government has committed to providing search and rescue teams across the province with $6-million in annual funding.

Vista Radio spoke with a member of Kimberley Search and Rescue in the East Kootenay about the funding.

Funding will begin in 2022-23 and is aimed at supporting B.C.’s 2,500 ground search volunteers. Peter Reid, Search Manager for Kimberley SAR said the funding will go a long way to help the organization.

“It’s great to hear the government come to the table with this, we’ve been operating with these short-term bursts of money over the last six years that has really helped our team out, but the fact that it’s now sustainable and we can plan into the future makes it so much better and so much easier for us,” said Reid.

Reid added that most of its funding for the last six years came from donations from the public and private companies as well as grants, which the SAR team would have to apply for.

Kimberley SAR had been receiving a lump sum from the province worth about $63,000 a year for the past few years, and Reid is hopeful that the new funding will be about the same amount.

Kimberley SAR’s operating costs vary from year to year, as it purchases new and replaces old equipment, and pays for training exercises.

“Our budget runs anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000 a year, it might not be huge in lots of people’s standards, but certainly for us as a volunteer search group, its something we constantly look at,” explained Reid.

According to the Province, B.C.’s search and rescue teams have had a busy year so far, seeing 700 calls since January. Reid said Kimberly SAR has responded to 25 calls in its own service area and mutual aid calls so far in 2020.

British Columbians are asked to help search and rescue crews out by staying safe outdoors and preventing a call before it happens.

“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,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “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.”

Reid offered a number of safety tips that people can use when taking a trip to the outdoors this summer.

“Have a map, make sure you know where you’re going, talk to other people that know where you’re going, make sure you bring the essentials with you. In other words, plan for the fact that you might get stuck overnight, and you’re able to care for yourself,” said Reid. “Be findable, is really what we’re asking.”

Reid added that a trip plan is important before you leave on a trip, and it can be as simple as telling someone where you are going, when to expect you back, what kind of vehicle you’re driving and its license plate number.