By Tamara Hynd
Recently five members from the West Kootenay and South Okanagan regional swiftwater teams became the first successful search and rescue members to pass the new BC River Outfitters Association guides exams in Canada.
Nelson Search and Rescue Chris Armstrong said prior to this licencing, all members had to be signed off by a commercial guide, prior to conducting whitewater searches.
With the creation of this new program, members can train for 20 to 50 hours to earn their SAR river guide licence, allowing individuals to sign off on whitewater searches.
The BCROA SAR specific guide license is a new initiative from the BC Search and Rescue Association and BC River Outfitter Association to improve safety on the rivers with search and rescue teams.
Under the direction of a BCROA Trip Leader participants were able to log many hours to prepare for the SAR guides exams.
“This is a significant achievement,” said Armstrong. “This is the first of its kind in B.C. and Canada.”
The training was part of the second annual RAFTEX (a weekend of rafting exercises) hosted by the Nelson Search and Rescue on the Slocan River, with 27 registered participants from nine SAR teams around the province.
Armstrong said members of regional swiftwater teams came together to improve their skills and bond as a technical rescue group in one of the most dangerous rescue environments that volunteers face in organized rescue.
Many in the valley would have seen the flotilla of colourful rafts over the long weekend as participants spent three days learning raft operations on many different types of rafts and cat-a-rafts.
This included industry standard dryland training in pre-trip safety talks, flip drills, equipment rescue, rigging of equipment, guide throwbag standards and rafting quadrant theory.