Training to save, training to survive

Search & Rescue Outdoor Academy preparing youth for life

  • Feb. 19, 2015 10:00 a.m.

The Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue is offering an outdoor academy for high schoolers aged 16+ this spring break.

Terry Farrell

Record Staff

In times of trouble, be it natural disasters, such as the December flood, or more intimate emergencies – a lost hiker, for instance – the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue serves an invaluable service to the community.

Trained personnel are on hand and at the ready, prepared to help resolve whatever issue is at hand.

The organization has training events for adults, and in 2014 introduced an in-depth spring break academy for high school-aged students.

The Search & Rescue Outdoor Academy is an opportunity for teens, aged 16 and older, to experience some of the basic skills relating to search and rescue, as well as outdoor survival.

Lead instructor for the academy, Paul Berry, said the earlier such skills can be instilled into our community’s residents, the better it is for the community.

“Like so many organizations that are volunteer driven in our community, the populations are aging and certainly first responders and emergency services personnel are roles for younger people, and we are hoping that by (beginning) the process at the high school level, that this is something they can follow through on for their lifetime,” he said.

The itinerary for the  Search & Rescue Outdoor Academy includes courses in ground search and rescue response, wilderness survival, swift water rescue, rope management, helicopter safety, avalanche skills, tracking and navigation.

The program runs from March 30-April 10 in Courtenay, on Mount Washington and on Hornby Island and will feature instruction from members of the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre, the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue and St. John Ambulance.

Berry was quick to point out that this is not a “training” course specifically to become a member of the CVGSAR; it’s much more than that. It’s about training the youth in our community to be better prepared to help others – and to help themselves.

“We aren’t a team that needs to advertise for members,” he said. “We have an active member list of about 40 and we have a waiting list of upwards of 60. This is more for the benefit of the students, than the benefit of the (CVGSAR) team. Yes, we would benefit if they choose to train here, although we know that many of these students will head elsewhere for university, or for jobs elsewhere in the province and once certified, they can benefit a community or an SAR team anywhere in the province.”

Students who complete the course will not only receive S&R technician certification, standard first aid certification and transport endorsement; they will also receive 30 community connections hours toward grad transitions, as well as six credits toward graduation.

“I think the bigger benefit is the benefit of providing a perspective to youth of the value of volunteers in communities – I think that’s probably the primary benefit of this academy,” said Berry.

The cost for the program is $1,440 which covers all meals, transportation, accommodation and training. Students are in residence for the entire program (at the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre).

The program is a partnership between the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, The Tribune Bay Centre, and School District 71.

To register for the program, go to, or call 1-800-663-7925. For more information, contact Gord Campbell at

The academy will be limited to 30 participants.


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