Ground Search and Rescue in BC
Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) in British Columbia is done solely by volunteers. On call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, these unpaid professionals provide their time, gear, dedication, and expertise to the people of BC and the subjects they rescue.
To volunteer for BC Search & Rescue, find the SAR group that serves your region.
Find essential public safety and trip planning information including links to AdventureSmart.
BCSARA consists of 78 Search & Rescue groups located across BC. Learn how SAR works in BC.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the BC SAR Association?
The BC SARA is a registered, non-profit society and was formed in the fall of 2002 to provide health and safety programs for SAR volunteers and to provide prevention programs at the provincial level. In order to provide equal representation to all association members, the 78 group search and rescue groups have been divided into regions and each region is represented by one director. There are also four executive members and representatives from tasking agencies.
What is the mission of the BC SAR Association?
The mission of BCSARA is to represent the recognized unpaid professional ground search and rescue community by providing advocacy, support for funding and health and safety, access to information as well as public education and prevention.
What is the BCSARA's position on charging for rescue?
The BC Search and Rescue Association’s official position is that we do not support charging people for search and or rescue.
Read the position statement from the Board of Directors.
What happens when I activate my satellite beacon?
Satellite Emergency Messaging Devices, or SEND, are a class of device that’s become very popular for backcountry travellers and remote workers. Examples of these devices include the SPOT Personal Tracker and Garmin Inreach devices.
All of these devices combine the functions of a GPS with a commercial satellite phone in text only (SMS) mode. They are not able to make voice calls, but they can send text messages through various gateways to email, mobile phones and to social media.
Triggering a SEND device means hitting the “SOS” or “911” button intended to issue an emergency alert call for help. Each device is different but the button often has a cover or other mechanism intended to prevent it from being activated by accident.
When a SEND device is triggered, the following sequence of events occur:
- User’s position and request for help are sent through a commercial satellite system to a ground monitoring agency.
- Agency passes along the alert to appropriate local responding agency. In British Columbia this is the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria, BC.
- The JRCC determines what kind of response is required. For ground-based alerts they send the message to EMBC’s Emergency Coordination Centre in Saanichton, BC.
- The ECC activates the nearest BC ground search and rescue team.
- The team mobilizes with resources depending on the location and severity of the incident.
Do SAR groups solicit funds by phone?
Neither the BCSARA nor the search and rescue groups recognized by the province solicit funding by telephone.
Why does the BC SAR Association have a prevention program?
BCSARA encourages everyone to enjoy all that BC’s great outdoors have to offer but hope they do so responsibly and safely. Our BC AdventureSmart program is there to help educate the public on how to trip plan, train and take the essentials, things that will help keep them safe. Our members would rather not be called out, but are available in case their help is needed.
Who are the members of the BC SAR Association?
The members of the association are the 78 ground search and rescue groups throughout the province and their more than 3,000 (2,500 trained GSAR members, 500 members-in-training and over 100 resource members) unpaid professional volunteers. There are also Associate Organizational members, Honorary members and Requesting Agency members.
How does the election process work?
All elections begin with the filing of nomination papers for candidates. Nominations require two nominators and the nominee’s agreement to stand for nomination to accompany a nomination. Nomination papers are filed with the association between April and May.
If there is only one nominee they are elected by acclamation. If there are more than one nominee then the election will take place during the month of June.Each nominated candidate is entitled to produce a single campaign document that will fit onto one side of a 8 1/2 X 11 inch page. The campaign document will be distributed by the association to the GSAR groups eligible to cast ballots for that director position.
The document will also be posted on the association’s website. Candidates are entitled to visit with GSAR Groups that are eligible to vote for them in order to campaign but the association will not assist a candidate in visiting individual groups or teams.
Newly elected directors will begin their term of office after the Annual General Meeting.
What will the BC SAR Association do for me, the GSAR volunteer?
The BC SAR Association will represent your interests, both provincially and nationally by:
- Actively promoting volunteer GSAR in order to educate the general public on how the service is delivered. The anticipated result is that there will be a consistent, accurate and professional-quality reference point to which all inquiries can be directed.
- Provide a forum for exchange of information and ideas between GSAR groups and GSAR volunteers.
- Actively soliciting funding on a provincial basis and distributing those funds equitably and appropriately to bone-fide BC GSAR groups.
- Acting in the best interests of all BC GSAR volunteers on any dealings with other agencies, partners and stakeholders.