Arrowsmith Search and Rescue members

Volunteering for Arrowsmith Search & Rescue

I have always wanted to volunteer in my community, doing something that impacts peoples lives. So, two years ago I joined Arrowsmith Search and Rescue. I am really enjoying the experience, and hope that my efforts positively affect the people we serve. 

Because of my previous military training, I believed that S&R (Search & Rescue) was the best fit for me. From a training perspective, we are all required to complete the initial MIT (Member in Training) course. If you graduate from that course, you then move on to complete the provincial GSAR (Ground Search & Rescue) course. 

It is important to tell you a little bit about what we do as a group. When an individual gets lost, and/or injured in one of our many forests or mountains, we are tasked out to assist them.

Most residents in BC are not aware that there are over 80 S&R teams in BC, supported by over 2500 volunteers. On average, these groups attend to over 1000 calls per year; that is more than all the S&R calls in the rest of Canada. We are known as professional volunteers. 

The reason we are tasked out, is that we have specialized equipment and training. We are trained to search and/or rescue people that could otherwise not be done by the RCMPBC Ambulance Service or Fire Departments—though we work very closely with these first responders.

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue is a volunteer organization that relies on some funding from the provincial government, but mostly donations. When an individual requires assistance, the operation normally commences with a call to 911. When the local first responder group realizes that they cannot assist, they contact Emergency Management BC (EMBC) and request that the local SAR group be tasked out. EMBC then contacts our duty Search Manager, and we will then get paged out. We are contacted through a paging system that provides basic information on the situation, and where to meet.

Search training for new members

Search training for new members

Helicopter hover entrance; exit training

Helicopter hover entrance and exit training

Rope Rescue training

Rope Rescue training

We could be sleeping, shopping or at work when a call comes in. We arrive on scene with all our gear, and then get tasked out to assist the subject. We all carry a 24-hour pack—we are always prepared to spend a night in the bush.

We all have first aid and survival training. We go out in groups of two to eight, with a dedicated Team Leader. We have one job—to bring an individual home as safely as possible.  We also have dedicated teams with specialized training. They consist of a Rope Rescue Team, Swift Water Team and ATV Team (of which I am a member). 

I have found many similarities between my professional life as a Wealth Advisor and a S&R volunteer. We have an acronym in S&R that is S.T.O.P., which stands for Stop – Think – Observe – Plan. This is not dissimilar from what we do as Wealth Advisors. Planning to exit a person out of the bush or planning for a client’s exit from their working life to retirement has many similarities. You need to give thought to the situation, use the correct tools at your disposal, and have a plan. 

Please enjoy the outdoors safely, and always remember to take the following: 

  • flashlight
  • fire making kit
  • whistle
  • extra food and water
  • extra clothing
  • navigational/communication devices
  • first aid kit
  • emergency blanket/shelter
  • pocket knife
  • sun protection

For more information about being safe outdoors, visit

Feature photo: Stuart Kirk and another Arrowsmith Search & Rescue team member, preparing for the Canada Day Parade.