When someone finds them self in need of assistance in the back country or elsewhere in Fernie, the Search and Rescue (SAR) team is there.
On the outside looking in it may seem like they appear out of nowhere like superheroes when in reality there is a lot that goes into being a part of the SAR.
Simon Piney, Head of Fernie SAR, said currently the SAR is made up of 30 volunteers, some of whom work professionally helping people whether as paramedics, firefighters, mountain guides, or ski patrollers to name a few.
“On their days off they come out and they help. Some of them will come out on an all night search and then go to work in the morning. Some of them will work all day and come to training in the evening,” he said.
“They’re some pretty amazing people.”
Piney said due to the area that makes up Fernie the group needs to be skilled in a variety of rescue techniques and procedures.
“In the winter it’s steep slopes and snow and avalanches,” he said.
“We have rivers, we have steep mountains that mean that we need rope rescue skills, we have swift water on the river, we have helicopter longline for when things are really challenging terrain wise.”
To ensure the team of volunteers always knows how to respond they regularly participate in training and maintain professional certifications, which Piney said they dedicate their own time to.
“Although we are volunteers there are no volunteer versions of the credentials required to participate in those technical rescue disciplines,” said Piney.
Something he said they always need to keep in mind during any call is that they always need to remain calm and not rush a rescue for the benefit and safety of not just the victim, but of the team as well.
“Although we’re dealing with something that is possibly someone’s worst day of their life, it’s not our emergency, we’re there to make it better,” said Piney.
“The more we slow down and the more we apply the skills that we have in a coordinated, timely fashion the better the outcome will be for them.”
Sometimes SAR can’t help someone and Piney said that can be really hard on them.
“Everyone who works in SAR in British Columbia, and there are 80 groups across the province, has access to something called Critical Incident Stress Management,” Piney said.
“The two things that I found always work best for me in this group is to talk to people you were out on rescue with … the second is go out and do something different.”
As for anyone wanting to join Fernie SAR, Piney said the easiest way is to go to their website to look at the process, though they can’t take everyone on.
“We’ll take on a handful of people every year or two,” he said.
“For those that join they then spend one year as a trainee during which time they’ll be exposed to all that we do, they’ll be trained, they’ll receive what’s called a Ground Search and Rescue Technician certificate … and at the end of that if they’re successful they’ll become a full fledged member of the group.”
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