Search and rescue funds disappoint

The president of the Klondike Search and Rescue Association is disappointed that new government spending won't provide specialized training for his volunteers.

The president of the Klondike Search and Rescue Association is disappointed that new government spending won’t provide specialized training for his volunteers.

John Mitchell has warned that his volunteers need special training to pluck people off steep embankments and out of ice-choked or swift-running rivers. But nearly $500,000 in new federal money earmarked for search and rescue operations won’t help.

That’s because the bulk of that money will go towards a three-year review of how Yukon’s search and rescue crews are organized. Some funds will go to training volunteers, but it’s not expected to cover the specialized rescue skills that Mitchell wants.

“The emphasis will be on either tracking or leadership skills,” said Michael Templeton, director of Yukon’s Emergency Measures Organization.

At present, volunteers in the Yukon are expected to focus on conducting ground and water searches. Tricky rescues are usually the responsibility of the RCMP. But Mounties frequently lack specialized rescue training.

Mitchell would like to see volunteers better trained to help fill this void.

“To stick our heads in the proverbial snowbank for three years studying things won’t help get granny off the side of a bloody mountain.”