New funding for Nicola Valley Search and Rescue

Nicola Valley Search and Rescue (NVSAR) has received a new batch of funding from the provincial government, helping them in their efforts to support the community and respond to emergencies. In partnership with the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), the provincial government provided $4,918,750 to ground search and rescue groups across British Columbia.

The funding is brand new for search and rescue groups in British Columbia, with BCSARA saying 2022 is the first year it has received “sustainable” provincial funding. The total funding received by BCSARA to distribute as a result was $5,961,000, with the $1 million difference going towards operating costs for the nonprofit. Locally, the funding makes it possible to buy new equipment and increase training.

“All members of a search and rescue group in British Columbia are volunteers, anywhere in the province,” said Nathan Brigden, director of search and rescue at NVSAR.

“Rescue equipment is expensive and it has a lifespan, so we always need funding opportunities to upgrade and replace our equipment, and improve our ability to respond that much better.”

Originally formed in 2003 after the former SAR Club disbanded, NVSAR has been providing search and rescue services in Merritt and surrounding areas for nearly twenty years. Their trained volunteer response teams are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Although their main service area is the Nicola Valley, they provide assistance to other rescue groups in the province through mutual aid agreements. NVSAR has worked hard to increase its level of service.

“We have tried to improve our response capabilities. We recently purchased a new command trailer and van,” added Brigden, who is also currently the group chairman.

“We just completed a new member class a few weeks ago. We are always working on improving our skills and training, and we are always ready to help those in need in the Nicola Valley.

Funding provided to the 79 SAR groups in British Columbia covers approximately 50% of the cost of search and rescue activities undertaken by the group, leaving local members to raise funds from their local communities, regional districts and public donations. NVSAR asserts that funding is distributed equally and fairly based on the level of calls received and other response factors.

“Every group in the province received money from the provincial government this year. There is a formula that BC Search and Rescue uses based on response capabilities and active members, so it is evenly distributed among the groups.

NVSAR recently graduated its class of 2022 training program, whose students learned year-round response skills that saw the Nicola Valley deal with a pandemic, wildfires and floods unprecedented.

Going forward, NVSAR and its 25 active members will focus on developing their skills, upgrading and maintaining their equipment, and engaging the community through search and rescue activities.

Brandon D. James