The Vernon Search and Rescue’s heli-winch team was called to assist in the rescue of two Shuswap backcountry sledders on April 2, 2021. (Photo credit: Vernon Search and Rescue)

The Vernon Search and Rescue’s heli-winch team was called to assist in the rescue of two Shuswap backcountry sledders on April 2, 2021. (Photo credit: Vernon Search and Rescue)

2020 season busiest one ever for BC search and rescue groups

Call outs for assistance were up nearly 25 per cent over previous years

With many people foregoing long-distance vacations in favour of exploring the B.C. back country instead during the pandemic, the province’s ground search and rescue (GSAR) groups are reporting that they had the busiest year for call outs in their history.

In a normal year, British Columbia’s GSAR groups are the busiest in the country, attending an average of 1,500 call outs a year: more than in the rest of Canada combined.

However, between April 2020 and April 2021, B.C.’s GSAR groups were deployed 1,959 times: an increase of nearly 25 per cent compared with previous years.

“B.C.’s 79 GSAR groups have been pushed to their limits,” says Chris Kelly, president, BC Search and Rescue Association. “COVID-19 has made risky work even more dangerous for each individual. I implore anyone heading out into the elements to do their part by planning ahead. Make sure you’re prepared for where you’re going: have a plan, have the right gear, know how to use it, and take the training.”

Anyone venturing into the great outdoors needs to expect the unexpected. Spring has arrived in many parts of B.C., especially in the valley bottoms, but winter conditions persist at higher elevations, and the weather can change quickly, from sunshine one minute to snow the next.

Not only do people need to be prepared before they head out, they also need to call for help immediately if they need it. BC AdventureSmart advises people to follow the “Three Ts”: Trip plan, Train, and Take the essentials. In addition, Avalanche Canada has extensive resources on its website, including information about avalanche conditions, terrain, and an online avalanche tutorial, Avy Savvy. Last year, avalanches claimed 10 lives in B.C.

Learn more at BC AdventureSmart ( and Avalanche Canada (

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