British Columbia’s North Shore Rescue is the first volunteer ground search-and-rescue organization in the country to get the green light to use night-vision goggles.
The team will be using a night-vision imaging system from helicopters in a pilot project aimed at extending search hours in low-light situations.
“I can guarantee you this will save lives,” search manager Mike Danks told Global News on Friday, adding that he hopes to see the tool rolled out province-wide.
Until now, night-vision imaging systems have been restricted to official organizations such as police and the military. The province has amended that restriction for the initiative.
North Shore Rescue was selected because of its proximity to the burgeoning Metro Vancouver region, its frequent low-light call outs and the challenging, technical terrain in which it operates, the province said.
“This has been a huge step forward, not only for North Shore Rescue but for search and rescue in British Columbia,” Danks said.
“This is going to make calls safer for not only the responders, but also for the people that we’re rescuing because it’s going to reduce the exposure time and it’s also going to take some of the pressure off of us to respond before darkness.”
The team has bought seven sets of the goggles, Danks added, and their partner, Talon Helicopters, has purchased an aircraft outfitted for night-vision capability.
Two pilots and two rescuers, who will act as spotters, will be outfitted with the gear during a flight, he said.
The province will review the data from the pilot project and evaluate the potential to expand to other search groups.