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False alarms costly

Pemberton SAR mobilized for three calls last week

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Pemberton Search and Rescue is reminding people heading into the woods to keep friends and family informed of their plans.

Last week, Pemberton SAR received three calls in a 24-hour period, far exceeding the typical trend of 30 calls per year and prompting calls for better communication.

Dave Steers, a search manager for Pemberton SAR, says between Monday and Tuesday last week they received three reports of people heading into the forest and not returning as planned. Fortunately, none of the incidents were actually instances of people being lost or in danger. But each false alarm cost time and money.

“While in none of these cases did we actually ever get out on the ground and start searching, we certainly mobilized to begin the process,” said Steers.

The first incident happened Monday, when crews mobilized and were preparing to head out in a helicopter to fly to Lillooet to search for a man. As it turned out, the “missing person” had simply decided to ATV to a friend’s house to spend the night.

“But a helicopter flew from Whistler to Pemberton — you’re partly paying for that, the taxpayers of B.C….,” said Steers.

Some search equipment can be very expensive, with Steers estimating a one-hour rental of a helicopter at around $1,600.

In all three cases, volunteer search and rescue crews were mobilized — the members often pulled away from full-time jobs — to prepare to head out and search for the “lost” parties.

Steers says people need to communicate better with family members and friends.

“We’d like to remind (people) that it’s really important to have a network of people who know where you went, and if your plans change, the first thing you need to do is tell these people.”

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