It was a busy year for Peninsula Emergency Measures Organization search and rescue team with the number of calls up 21 per cent.
Serving the municipalities of Sidney, Central and North Saanich, the entirely volunteer-based crew assists in emergencies, evacuations and missing person protocols, among other duties.
The team of roughly 20 volunteers “come from all walks of life,” says PEMO manager Kyle Van Delft, including students, teachers and professionals who work with local fire departments, police and Coast Guard.
“What we have on the Peninsula is a group of volunteers really who are dedicated to ensuring they can help people,” says Van Delft, a three-year PEMO veteran.
In 2018, the team clocked some 4,172 hours of volunteer time including 2,856 hours of training.
Its been a busy year for #bcsar volunteers and #PEMOSAR is no exception, we've seen a 21% increase in call volume in 2018! #Saanpen #YYJ #SidneyBC #Nsaan #Csaan #VictoriaBC #BCSAR #Searchandrescue #Rescue pic.twitter.com/7RY7N9lZqJ
— PEMO Search & Rescue (@PEMO_SAR) December 30, 2018
Van Delft says a lot of work this year was contributing to larger mutual aid calls.
“Because search and rescue is a provincial resource we have the opportunity to assist elsewhere on the Island and in some cases, the province,” he says.
The team was quite active in Cowichan throughout the summer – PEMO played a role in the search for missing man Ben Kilmer, whose remains were found in a remote area of Duncan – as well as calls that brought them to Comox and Campbell River.
“It’s definitely been a busy year for the team,” Van Delft says.
While the busiest months for calls were May and June, PEMO responds to a variety of emergency situations ranging from lost or injured hikers to skydivers stuck in trees to people experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia who can often wander from care homes.
PEMO search and rescue also work preventatively, training for emergency preparedness should an earthquake or tsunami strike.
Across B.C. there are 80 search and rescue groups, consisting of more than 2,500 volunteers, says Van Delft. “Anywhere in the country outside of military and Coast Guard, all are volunteers.”
Calls can range from two or three in a day, to going several weeks without an incident, Van Delft notes, but year over year there has been a steady increase and the team will begin training a handful of new volunteers in the coming months.
“To have a highly trained, technical team it takes a significant amount of training,” Van Delft says. “We do keep ourselves busy.”