Search and rescue searching for volunteers

Search and Rescue volunteers come the Cowichan River in August. - Andrew Leong/file
Search and Rescue volunteers come the Cowichan River in August.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Cowichan Search and Rescue is spending the holidays searching, but not because anyone is lost or injured in the wilderness. The group is looking for new members.

The volunteer organization is recruiting for a new-member training program that will run from mid-January to June 2014. Interested applicants should send an email ASAP and no later than Jan. 7, 2014 to to start the application process. Applicants will be required to provide a current driver's abstract and have a criminal record check completed.

"Being part of Search and Rescue is a big commitment, but it's one of the most rewarding things I've been involved with," says Mitch Wright, Cowichan SAR vice-president. "Volunteers in groups all across B.C. give hundreds of hours individually every year so they are trained to the highest standards and ready when needed. It usually means giving up time with our own families, but every SAR volunteer does it because they are passionate about their communities and care about bringing people home to their families and loved ones."

Cowichan SAR was founded in 1962 and incorporated as a registered non-profit society in 1992. It operates under the mission statement: "Professionally trained volunteers dedicated to bringing people home. Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere". The group covers the region between the Malahat and Chemainus River, and coast to coast across Vancouver Island. It consists of 40-plus active members specializing in Ground Search and Rescue, while simultaneously maintaining specialty teams in the areas of Swift Water Rescue, Tracking and Rope Rescue.

Members train Ground SAR skills twice a month September to June, 2 to 2.5 hours on the first Tuesday evening of each month, and 5-8 hours on a weekend day later in the month.

Members are asked to attend 60 per cent of GSAR training. Specialty teams train additional hours on a regular basis, often weekly, and are voluntary membership once individuals have GSAR certification.

To become a certified GSAR volunteer in BC, people are required to take a certification course delivered by Justice Institute of BC-qualified instructors within each SAR group. The course  involves a mix of classroom and field instruction/evaluation.

Once certified and active, members are on-call around the clock; however, members respond according to their availability and work schedules. If not available to initially respond, members can become available for a second operational period, or to help with demobilization once a task is complete or stood down.

The number of calls responded to vary from year to year and can last from hours to consecutive days. In addition to the time CSAR members spend on searches, many hours are spent on training, planning, administration, fundraising and public education.

Cowichan SAR encourages people who are considering applying for membership to take a free, online introductory SAR course ( developed in cooperation with the BC Search and Rescue Association, the Justice Institute of BC and the RCMP. While this is not a requirement for membership on the team, it will offer an idea about how SAR works in BC.

For more information about joining Cowichan SAR, please email

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