August 21, 2013 4:55 pm
Updated: August 21, 2013 6:16 pm

North Shore Rescue suggests new funding model involving paid standby

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North Shore Rescue is a volunteer based organization, but they are revising their funding model to include paid standby for a rotating group of highly trained volunteers, including helicopter rescue technicians and specially trained pilots.

The organization is suggesting a hybrid approach that combines the volunteer search and rescue (SAR) teams and paid standby.

The change would only apply during peak hours in the testing stage.

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Team leader Tim Jones says asking private operators to have machines sitting unpaid waiting for a call will bankrupt them. Instead, he wants to see private pilots and aircraft on minimums dedicated to rescues. The goal is to have aircraft available for rescues and the pilots who will be at the airport ready to go when the call comes in.

“There has to be a hybrid model. We have to break this plateau that volunteerism is volunteerism. It is an evolving process,” says Jones.

Another big concern for Jones is the lack of the provincial communications system. He says current system does not provide communications safety net required for rescue operations.

Jones says North Shore Rescue has built a one-million dollar radio repeater system for its local operations, but there is none north of Squamish.

“You can’t expect an organization anywhere in the province not to be able to communicate with their members in the field,” says Jones. “If you look at any post-incident debriefing, any major incident that we ever had, the number one thing that comes out that was not working – is communication.”

Jones says he does not have an exact dollar figure on the total cost for paid standby and the new communications system, but acknowledges it won’t be cheap.

“I am not beating around the bush, it is going to cost money. There are a lot of people with a lot of different opinions on how we pay for it.”

In a response to the North Shore Rescue concerns, the provincial government has released the following response to Global News:

“We recognize the value of SAR to the province, and all British Columbians are thankful for the services these dedicated teams provide. That’s why they have been actively supported by the Province – with $7 million in funding last year alone. We work closely with our partner, the BC Search and Rescue Association, to identify challenges and successes that are encountered by the 80 Ground Search and Rescue Groups in the province. Mr. Jones has now brought his concerns forward to the BCSARA board, of which the Province is a member, and we are open to discussing his proposal. As the association that oversees SAR teams, BCSARA is the appropriate channel.”

With files from Grace Ke

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