The Squamish Search and Rescue unit could soon see an increase of up to 10 new members — once they pass a 24-hour exam.
“They’ll live off whatever they bring in the morning,” Raz Peel, Squamish SAR vice-president, said.
The new recruits have been preparing for this night since February 2019, and it will be the culmination of their training so far.
“Historically, our team hasn’t had anyone abandon their overnight [exam] — despite the rain, the snow, the gale-force winds,” Peel said.
It’s no accident that the 24-hour exam is held over a winter night. Peel said it’s much easier to survive a night out in the summer than during the winter.
The goal is for the recruits not only to stay overnight, but to be comfortable and safe.
In January, the team of volunteers voted in a new president and vice-president.
Gerald Wolfe became the president at the 2020 annual general meeting.
He has been a member of Squamish SAR for 10 years, joining the board four years ago and serving as the vice president for two years.
After the election, Wolfe told The Chief that “starting from the ground up” with learning searches and rescues, management and how to run a charitable organization are experiences that will help him in his new role.
“The common theme that I think Search and Rescue throughout the province is interested in is making sure that people are well prepared for the adventures they plan to go on,” Wolfe said. “That means leaving a trip plan with your friend or with your family so people know where you’re going and what you’re up to. It means bringing enough equipment and supplies so that you’re safe in the backcountry and then remembering to call for help if you get into trouble — don’t wait until it’s too late.”
In 2019, SAR operations responded to a total of 97 tasks. The volunteer unit in Squamish had 73 members last year. While the number of tasks was slightly down from 2018’s 105 tasks, Wolfe said 97 is in line with the local unit’s increasing statistical average.
While the board has yet to have a meeting since the AGM, Wolfe said some of the team’s goals for the year include implementing new helicopter safety procedures and upgrading or expanding the SAR base. He said they may be looking at a new location.
They’re also looking at acquiring a new command van and a new water truck.
BJ Chute, who was the president of the volunteer group for four years, will stay on in a management role.
Chute has been on the board of directors for eight years. Ahead of the annual general meeting, when elections were held, Chute told The Chief he felt it was time to take a step back, and return to more fieldwork.
New vice-president Peel was invited to become an active response member in 2017, and joined the board of directors last year. Peel, who helped form the Alpine Club of Canada chapter in Squamish, also served as the president of the club’s chapter in Vancouver for several years.
“Playing the hero in the field is something we all joined to be able to do,” Peel told The Chief after the election. “The behind-the-scenes work isn’t, so it’s pretty incredible when you work with a whole bunch of people in a volunteer capacity that are willing to go that extra mile to make sure the behind-the-scenes work also happens.”
*This story has been updated to correct how many years Raz Peel has volunteered with Squamish SAR. The Chief was previously given the wrong information.