KRISTI DOBSON PHOTO                                Dave Poulsen, president of the local search and rescue squad, stands in front of the organzation’s hall which is currently undergoing renovations thanks to provincial government funding.

KRISTI DOBSON PHOTO Dave Poulsen, president of the local search and rescue squad, stands in front of the organzation’s hall which is currently undergoing renovations thanks to provincial government funding.

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad sees calls doubled in 2016

Provincial funding announcement welcome news for AVRS

KRISTI DOBSON

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

The provincial government confirmed its commitment to provide funding to Search and Rescue groups across B.C. The $80 million funding announcement made earlier this month, up from $65 million last year, was ear-marked for emergency preparedness, but for the Alberni Valley Rescue Squad, the numbers were up in the air. Since last year’s call volume to the volunteer group doubled in 2016 compared to the year before, it comes as good news. “SAR has been pushing the government for this,” said Dave Poulsen, the squad’s president. “We have no secure funds, so what we are really trying to establish is a secure funding model for us.”

Between this announcement, last year’s $10 million influx, and their regular funding sources, Poulsen said the squad is able to maintain services.

“With the regional district’s help, donations from Van Isle Ford, our own fundraising, and BC Gaming, we are able to scratch together funds to survive for the year,” he said. “But we never know from year to year.” He said they know they can pay the bills and keep the heat and lights on in the building for this year.

The search and rescue hall is currently benefiting from funds as it undergoes renovations and repairs. The roof is being replaced and new siding installed. “We knew the roof was in disrepair and the building had issues with old, brittle siding,” Poulsen said. “So we needed to give it some longevity before we ran into major issues.”

Regulations on the use of BC Gaming funds limit the group’s expenditure of that grant to equipment, which has a shelf life due to regular use. Poulsen said that if a rope receives excessive wear from one rescue, it has to be replaced. He said as a volunteer-run organization, it is difficult to commit to too many fundraisers between training and active rescues. In 2015, the group received 38 calls and in 2016, the members went out on twice as many rescues.

Poulsen said they have already received between 10 and 20 calls so far this year. “Things are just getting started,” he said. “This money certainly eased major concerns as far as the building is concerned, but it would be nice to establish a secure funding model.”

The provincial funds invested are being allocated to the following emergency programs: Fire Chiefs Association of BC – $1.63 million

Canada Task Force 1 (Heavy Urban Search and Rescue or HUSAR) – $1 million

Marine Environmental, Observation, Prediction and Response Network – $800,000

The Salvation Army of BC – $700,000

BC Search and Rescue Association – $500,000

Avalanche Canada – $500,000

PEP Air – $100,000

Canadian Red Cross – $100,000.