Nicola Valley Search and Rescue (NVSAR) has received a new batch of funding from the provincial government, aiding them in their efforts to support the community and respond to emergency situations. In partnership with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), the provincial government disbursed $4,918,750 to ground search and rescue groups across B.C.

The funding is brand new to B.C. search and rescue groups, with BCSARA saying 2022 is the first year it has received “sustainable” provincial funding. The total funding received by BCSARA to distribute accordingly was $5,961,000, with the million dollar difference going to the operating costs of the non-profit organization. Locally, the funding is enabling new equipment purchases and increased training.

“Everybody who is a member of a search and rescue group in B.C. is a volunteer, all across the province,” said Nathan Brigden, search and rescue manager with NVSAR.

“Rescue gear is expensive and it has a shelf life, so we’re always in need of funding opportunities to upgrade and replace our gear, and make our ability to respond that much better.”

Initially formed in 2003 after the previous SAR club disbanded, NVSAR has been providing search and rescue services to Merritt and the surrounding area for nearly twenty years. Their trained volunteer response teams are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While their main service area is the Nicola Valley, they provide assistance to other rescue groups in the province through mutual aid agreements. NVSAR has been working hard to increase their level of service.

“We’ve been trying to improve our response capabilities. We recently purchased a new command trailer and pickup truck,” added Brigden, who also currently serves as the group’s president.

“We just graduated a new class of members a couple of weeks ago. We’re always working on improving our skills and training, and we’re always ready to help out those that need it in the Nicola Valley.”

The funding disbursed to the 79 SAR groups in B.C. covers approximately 50 percent of the cost of search and rescue activities taken on by the group, leaving local members to fundraise through their local communities, regional districts, and public donations. NVSAR says the funding is equally and fairly distributed based on level of callouts received and other response factors.

“Each group in the province got some money from the provincial government this year. There’s a formula that BC Search and Rescue uses based on response capabilities and active members so it’s fairly disbursed amongst the groups.”

Recently, NVSAR graduated its 2022 training program class, students of which learned response skills throughout the year that saw the Nicola Valley face a pandemic, wildfires, and unprecedented record-breaking flooding.

Moving forward, NVSAR and its active member base of 25 will focus on sharpening their skills, upgrading and maintaining their equipment, and engaging the community through search and rescue activities.