Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue members remain ready to respond to emergencies, but they are taking steps to limit their exposure to the COVID-19 virus.( File Photo)

Shuswap search and rescue groups taking steps to address COVID-19 concerns

Both marine and land search and rescue organizations up and running

Despite cautionary efforts to protect their volunteers from the COVID-19 virus, Shuswap search and rescue groups remain ready to respond in the event of an emergency.

John Schut, a search manager for the Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue, said the SAR volunteers are still on task and taking the appropriate steps to protect themselves from the virus. Schut said the organization has personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks, to limit their exposure to the virus while conducting a rescue.

He said SAR volunteers who have recently returned from trips abroad are being asked to isolate themselves. In addition, the SAR group has no meetings or gatherings planned and Schut said the organization’s members are free to refuse any task they feel is unsafe. He noted the situation was fluid and open to change.

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Schut said in his personal opinion, people should be staying away from the kinds of dangerous activities which could lead to a search and rescue call at this time.

Fred Banham, the station leader for Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) Station #106 (Shuswap) based in Sicamous, said they have also cancelled in-person training and meetings but are ready to respond should an emergency on the lake occur.

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Banham said although four of the RCMSAR station’s 22 members are self isolating due to recent travel, the remaining 18 are more than enough to crew the station’s two vessels in the event of an emergency. He said the station has been in contact with the Shuswap Emergency Program’s Emergency Operations Centre and is providing updates regarding volunteer availability.

Both of RCMSAR’s vessels in Sicamous are equipped with personal protection kits to help limit the volunteers’ exposure to patients who may have the virus if they have to go out on a call. Banham said RCMSAR will share protective equipment with other first responders if shortages emerge.

Banham said there isn’t much activity on Shuswap Lake yet, and the northern arms of the lake are still in the grip of winter. He said there have been some fishermen out on their boats, mostly concentrated in the area between Murdock Point and Marble Point.

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