News

Coquitlam SAR fundraising for new mobile command centre

Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteer Bob Hetherington stands in the group
Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteer Bob Hetherington stands in the group's 20-year-old mobile command centre. SAR is now fundraising for a new, $300,000 vehicle that meets their needs.
— image credit: SARAH PAYNE/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

When Coquitlam Search and Rescue is called to help locate a missing hiker, the volunteer crew mobilizes at the search site as quickly as possible.

Their mobile command centre, however, is another story.

Despite the crew's best efforts, their vehicle is not aging gracefully. It sags under the weight of the team's gear — everything from chainsaws to high-powered lighting, generators, tents, medical equipment, maps and loads of communications technology — and, under all that weight, lacks the power to get to remote locations.

Coquitlam SAR is now embarking on some serious fundraising for a new, custom-built truck.

"This is our 20-year-old bread truck," joked SAR member Bob Hetherington. "It's done great work for us but we're limited to where we can take it."

With thousands of pounds of gear loaded on the truck, it's only capable of handling paved roads or the most well-maintained gravel ones, even though volunteers are constantly shifting gear in and out to help ease the pressure on the old rig.

And with a search area that covers approximately 1,800 sq. km, the truck's mileage has not only reached its limit, it's also contributing to response time delays.

Once on the scene, as many as five or more volunteers are crammed into the tiny space as they monitor radios, track multiple teams and plan search routes, making for hot, uncomfortable conditions for several hours.

A Coquitlam SAR committee has been working on plans for a new truck for nearly two years. Applications for provincial gaming grants and the Spirit of Coquitlam grant program will be sent over the next two months and SAR has also posted a "Donate Now" button on its website, where donors can specify that their money go to a new mobile command centre.

"We're also going to be approaching all the municipalities and the two villages we serve... and the city of Burnaby," said SAR spokesperson Michael Coyle, adding volunteers are also looking into funding opportunities with Metro Vancouver.

The new truck is expected to cost about $300,000 and SAR is hoping it will be operational by early 2016.

Coyle noted that while search and rescue tasks are paid for by the province with tax revenue, capital projects such as the new command centre are not.

"Capital costs and fundraising are entirely the responsibility of the SAR groups," Coyle said. "Without support from the communities we serve, we could not afford this replacement. We are relying on public support as well as funding from grants and corporate donors."

• For more information and to donate, visit www.coquitlam-sar.bc.ca/initiatives/command-vehicle/.

spayne@tricitnews.com

 

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