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NSR resources stretched thin right now
North Shore Rescue's resources are stretched thin in the summer months, so hikers should exercise backcountry smarts.
That's the message from NSR leader Tim Jones, after another busy weekend for his team.
"People need to understand there is a certain limit to [NSR] volunteerism in the summer months," Jones told The Outlook Monday.
On Sunday (July 7), four specialized NSR members were deployed to Coquitlam around 8 a.m. to pluck a male hiker from his precarious perch above a waterfall on Burke Mountain.
The team used the helicopter external transportation system, a rope-rescue tool co-pioneered by NSR, to reach the man. While highly technical in nature — the helicopter was rigged for a 250-foot long-line — it was a textbook rescue for NSR, who were aided by Coquitlam Search and Rescue.
A week prior to that call, on June 30, a NSR team was deployed to look for two lost hikers on the lower slopes of Grouse Mountain. A pair of Korean tourists in their 20s had intended to hike the Grouse Grind, but instead became disoriented and wound up on the Baden Powell Trail.
A language barrier between the tourists and their rescuers complicated matters. After a Korean-speaking RCMP member serving as translator stepped in, a NSR search manager was able to pinpoint the duo’s location more precisely.
A two-man rescue team sweeping the east bank of Mosquito Creek heard a response to their calls. They were able to follow the stranded hikers' screams further upstream and across the creek, before locating them on a steep slope near the Heritage Tree Trail.
NSR members are summoned to the backcountry or fielding phone calls from other emergency agencies on a daily basis, said Jones. Historically, July brings the greatest call volume for NSR.
“It's not the volume that is a problem for us, it's summer holidays,” explains Jones. “The real issue is who is in town. You can't regulate people's holidays when they volunteer.”
On average, out of the 40 members on the NSR roster, six will answer the call in the first hour during the summer months. That’s compared to the wintertime, when half of the members are ready to go at a moment’s notice in that same time frame.
Still, at any time of the year, NSR can count on mutual aid from other search and rescue teams in the Lower Mainland to fill any void in their roster.
Jones has some basic advice for hikers venturing out in the woods this summer:
-Stay put if you are lost.
-Try and get out in the open — that's the biggest thing, says Jones.
- Tell someone where you are going.
- Cell phones generally work really well. But don't phone your family and friends for two hours and then try to call us, he adds.
- And don't rely solely on your phone’s GPS [global positioning system]; have a proper map and compass.
NSR has a list of ten backcountry essentials on its website, northshorerescue.com.