Alberni students SAR to new heights

Ten Grade 11 students participated in a joint Alberni Valley Search and Rescue-VAST-Alberni District Secondary School outdoor education initiative at the Paper Mill Dam on Tuesday.

Port Alberni Search and Rescue member Brian Fletcher

Some students got a taste of some real rescue life skills as part of their high school education this week.

Ten Grade 11 students participated in a joint Alberni Valley Search and Rescue-VAST-Alberni District Secondary School outdoor education initiative at the Paper Mill Dam.

SAR members taught the students basic swift water rescue, rappelling, tracking and stretcher packing skills.

“We’re trying to develop an awareness in students of ground search rescue in the Valley,” said VAST instructor Dave Maher, who is also an 11-year SAR member.

The students studied rescue and outdoor theory as part of the high school’s outdoor education program.

But rescue personnel—including VAST instructor Erik Waldriff, who is also a SAR member—are bringing the real world to them by teaching hands-on skills.

“We want them to have an awareness of personal and group safety and to understand risks and survival in the wilderness,” Maher said.

The students will receive credit towards their course for the day’s training.

A group of students from VAST were put through the same paces in previous weeks.

The initiative started three years ago when Maher saw the opportunity to use training as a way of intriguing students while teaching them practical skills.

The program started with basic first aid and stretcher carrying being taught and grew from there.

“We’ve added other components now and it’s grown into more natural offering,” Maher said.

Ground search and rescue is being offered as a credit during VAST’s Grade 11-12 summer offering this year.

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