Celebrating a major milestone this year, Nicola Valley Search and Rescue (NVSAR) will open the doors to its mobile command vehicle, and invite the public to learn more about the vital services they offer. Celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2023, NVSAR has provided much needed support to area residents through local emergency services for two decades. 

Offering a number of services related to the location and rescue of people in distress in remote or hard-to-reach locations, NVSAR is a non-profit and volunteer run organization. They often assist in missing person cases, avalanche rescues, and work in other often treacherous situations. As their 20th anniversary approaches, NVSAR hopes to showcase their two decades of progress to past members and the general public in an open house at Merritt Airport on January 15.

“We’re hosting an open house, and we’ll be showcasing some of our equipment, programs that we offer, different groups we have, gear, and our command vehicle,” said Tracy Dunsmore, secretary and training officer for NVSAR.

“It will be an open house, but we’ll also be inviting some of our past members that participated in search and rescue in the last 20 years, so some of our SAR managers, executives, presidents, and people who were involved in setting it up, so they can kind of see how we’ve grown over the last 20 years.”

Dunsmore has 30 years of search and rescue experience, and has been involved with NVSAR since its inception in 2003. That year, members of the Merritt RCMP revived the group after it had previously folded due to lack of support. NVSAR is independent of the RCMP, but often works in conjunction with police. Their callouts mainly come from the RCMP and BC Ambulance Service, but a number of emergency services are able to request NVSAR’s assistance. Individuals cannot directly request the services of search and rescue. 

Search and rescue organizations in B.C. are funded primarily by the provincial government, but do also rely on public support and donations to minimize costs to volunteers. While their training is paid for by NVSAR, those looking to join the organization may need to provide equipment such as boots, backpacks, and other necessities. New volunteers receive basic ground search and rescue training, and can branch off to more specialized training from there.  

“We just started a new class in October, so we’re midway through that class right now,” noted Dunsmore. 

“We usually do one [class] per year, but we take new volunteers throughout the whole year. People are welcome to come and attend meetings and local training, and when a new course comes up, they can go into that. They can also attend callouts and things without having completed the actual course, they’ll just be placed with a regular member.”

Due to the geographically diverse layout of the area, NVSAR volunteers can prepare for other scenarios in addition to the ground search and rescue training. Those interested in swiftwater rescue, ice rescue, avalanche response, and other areas of operation are required to complete specialized training before responding to callouts. 

Those interested in learning more about NVSAR should visit the organization’s open house, happening at the Merritt Airport on January 15, from 1:30 to 4:30PM. More information can be found online at www.nvsar.com.