In Case of Emergency Call 911
Who we are
Vernon Search & Rescue Group Society (“VSAR”) is a volunteer, non-profit charitable Society, which has provided Search and Rescue services to the North Okanagan, a region in B.C.’s interior, since 1960.
VSAR currently has approximately 65 volunteer members that are on call 24 hours a day. We are paged via an automated telephone system upon notification from one of our requesting agencies. VSAR is kept busy with an average of over 80 tasks annually, equivalent to an average of some 6,900 man-hours annually, excluding training or administration.
A task is generally initiated by these requesting agencies:
- B.C. Ambulance Service
- The Coroner’s Office
- The B.C. Forest Service
- The Office of the Fire Commissioner
- Local government Emergency Operations Centres
These tasks take various forms, such as a search for lost or missing persons, rescue operations, evidence searches and body recoveries, and emergency evacuations. In the majority of cases, team members respond to the operations centre at the Search and Rescue Hall (a building located on North Okanagan Regional District grounds in Vernon) where a briefing is given and resources are deployed. It is important that members respond promptly and are properly equipped, as the first hours are critical to the successful outcome of a task.
VSAR is considered one of the “anchor” units in the Province of B.C. and has a full suite of ground rescue capabilities. VSAR's resources consist of:
- an Initial Response Truck (crew-cab equipped with a comprehensive array of rope rescue, swift-water rescue, medical and ground search equipment)
- a Command Truck (cargo truck equipped with computers, radios, photocopier, generator and map boards)
- two Jet Boats (22’ aluminum patrol boat and a 18’ extreme shallow river boat)
- 3 ATV’s
- 1 UTV
- 3 sleds
- A wheeled/ski capable rescue boggan
- A full complement of rope equipment
- A full complement of swift-water equipment
- A full complement of ice rescue equipment
As such, its rescue personnel are often requested to assist other SAR units in a mutual aid capacity.
There are no restrictions on who can become a member, beyond an age restriction for minors, and the group consists of both genders. The only requirement is that each member completes the 75 hour Ground Search and Rescue (“GSAR”) course as required by Emergency Management B.C. (“EMBC” - formerly the Provincial Emergency Program). Although for many, the basic course is just a stepping stone into one of the many specialties of search and rescue, including:
- search management
- team leadership
- swift water rescue
- flat ice rescue
- rope rescue
- avalanche rescue
To maintain skills, the volunteers meet weekly at the operations centre and perform scheduled training exercises or simulated searches.
More than a third of the membership has over a decade of experience, with nearly 10 members having over 20 years. 6 of its members are provincial instructors in the various disciplines; 4 have been BCSARA directors; 4 have been B.C. SAR Volunteer of the Year; 1 has been a Search and Rescue Volunteers Association of Canada director (the federal liaison group between the volunteers and the federal government); and 4 have won National SAR Awards. And over the years, VSAR has received numerous commendations and awards from EMBC, the RCMP and various municipal governments.
It is worth noting that VSAR operates on a 100% volunteer basis and volunteers are not reimbursed for the time they must take away from their family and work for task operations, training and administration.