Nanaimo Search and Rescue catches operations lifeline

Nanaimo Search and Rescue will have its operating costs covered for the year thanks to a financial lifeline tossed out by the provincial government.

Kevin McNeill, Nanaimo Search and Rescue spokesman, said the organization applied for a B.C. Gaming grant for at least three years before receiving a $22,000 grant shortly before Christmas, which will cover its operating costs through 2013.

“We hadn’t actually had any experience with applying for the grant,” McNeill said. “It takes a while. Thanks to the Serauxmen. They helped us out with it and we finally got it.”

The non-profit organization had previously relied on  private donors for funding.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue will continue to apply for grants each year.

“This just covers our operating costs to run the outfit,” McNeill said. “It’s not for new equipment or anything like that.”

The organization used a private donation to buy two heavy-duty, crew cab pickup trucks late last year to replace the early 1980s vintage trucks that it used to transport its swift water and rope rescue crews and equipment.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue will continue to rely on donations and grants to cover ongoing equipment replacement, such as ropes, harnesses, drysuits and wetsuits for water rescue work.

Ropes must be replaced every five years, and immediately if they are used in a rescue, according to WorkSafe B.C. rules. A 100-metre length of the special non-stretch rope used for rope rescues, which costs about $5 per metre, is an expensive replacement item, but ropes used in rescues are paid for through the B.C. emergency program. Wetsuits and other gear and equipment are replaced as they wear out.

“It all depends on our equipment needs,” McNeill said. “Some years we don’t need to replace any equipment. Other years we do.”

The search and rescue organization would also like to replace its aging command vehicle, a 1984 Bluebird bus that was originally converted from an MacMillan Bloedel crummy.  Estimated cost to replace it is $160,000, but for the time being, McNeill said, the organization is in good shape financially.

“For the first time in a long time we can sort of sit and go, ‘Hah. We’re OK,’” he said.

The organization’s 45 members found themselves a little busier than normal through 2012 when they conducted about 20 searches for the year compared to a normal rate of about 14 calls per year. Most calls are for mutual aid to other emergency agencies conducting searches.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue’s members conduct ground and inland water search and rescue within the area served by the Nanaimo RCMP detachment, which includes parts of the Regional District of Nanaimo and areas within the city.

There have been no calls for searches so far this winter.

“I think the weather’s been too nasty,” McNeill said. “Nobody wants to go outside.”

To learn more about Nanaimo Search and Rescue, become a member or to donate to the organization, please visit its website at

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