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Penticton search and rescue rolls out new team

Dino Giurissevich of Penticton Search and Rescue rides along a section of one of the many trails used by outdoor-recreation enthusiasts this week. The avid cyclist has put together a team of mountain bikers to help improve the search and response-time capabilities of the agency similar to a program used in Calgary. - Mark Brett/Western News
Dino Giurissevich of Penticton Search and Rescue rides along a section of one of the many trails used by outdoor-recreation enthusiasts this week. The avid cyclist has put together a team of mountain bikers to help improve the search and response-time capabilities of the agency similar to a program used in Calgary.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

In search and rescue, getting there is much more than half the battle.

According to those who do the work, in emergency situations response time is often critical.

That was one of the main reasons Dino Giurissevich of Penticton Search and Rescue decided to form a mountain-biking team to augment the existing resources.

“This way we can get to somebody a lot faster than walking and get into areas where the quads can’t get and without the noise so we can hear somebody calling for help or hear us calling them,” said Giurissevich, a trail rider for nearly 30 years.

“It’s just a lot more efficient and much better to find people before dark because it gets a lot tougher after that. This just gives us another tool in our arsenal to help people in distress.”

Mountain bikes have been employed by local members using personal equipment but Giurissevich envisions a time when it has a fleet of its own to improve response times even more.

“I just thought this is something that was needed here, especially with the terrain and amount of trails we have, not only for bikers but hikers as well,” he said.

Giurissevich added the recent deaths of two local mountain bikers in the region known as Three Blind Mice were unusual, however in this particular activity, accidents are not

“That’s actually what got me going in search and rescue in the first place, because a few of my friends had injuries and I thought well I’m in this situation why don’t I volunteer to help people out a little more,” said Giurissevich, who is patterning his team after one that is part of the Calgary Search and Rescue agency.

“There is a certain protocol for doing searches. It’s not like zipping down the trail really quickly, it has to be a lot more methodical because in the bush it is a lot easier to miss something. I even remember one situation where we had a hunter who was wearing camouflage.”

He is looking for experienced, skilled riders capable of tackling the most difficult terrain while being able to detect important signs like partial tracks, or seeing a small piece of clothing among the brush.

There is also the added bonus of using bikes within the city limits, when it comes to locating children or people suffering from dementia.

Presently there are four members on the team but Giurissevich is hoping the current membership drive will increase the number.

He is also hoping in the future to generate interest among the business sector to supply the needed equipment and already the group has had a donation of a four-bike, automobile rack from Penticton-based firm Swagman.

Not surprisingly, search manager Cindy Smith welcomes the addition of the team.

“This is going to be a really valuable resource to us, particularly because of our coverage area,” she said. “We’ve been working on this for about a year now and it will help us be much more effective.”

Smith is also hoping the recruitment campaign will encourage more people to become members, pointing to the wide range of opportunities.

“That includes everything from out in the field, management or working with mapping and administration,” she said. “Some people would need to be physically fit if they want to do some of the disciplines, but there are a lot of other options. We have had members from 18 years old to 80.

“The main thing we are looking for are dedicated individuals who are open and willing to learn and are able to take direction.”

Those interested in joining can pick up an application package at the hall located at 251 Dawson Ave., Mondays (except holidays) starting at 6:30 p.m. The completed forms must be returned by Dec. 15.

 

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